Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Reloading: Essential or insignificant?




Opinions on reloading, especially when running a semi-automatic pistol, vary greatly, even among the instructional community. Depending on your background or desired application, reloading is everything from critical to useless…”something that seldom happens” except in competition where it is often times forced on the shooter. So, what is the reality of the reload in combat? Do we ignore it or do we emphasize it? Remember what they say about opinions and those stink! Also consider an opinion is not fact, even if you do read it on line from a “famous” person…

Based on my many interviews and life long study of armed conflict (something many claim to have done) I will offer this: reloading in a pistol fight does not happen often…but it HAS happened and when it does there is a need to reload very, very quickly! Based on my many years of training law enforcement officers, legally armed citizens and some military folks, most do not reload very well. They are slow, look clunky and uncoordinated, are imprecise or carry their spare magazine in a piece of crap magazine pouch (LE issues the worst!), having given NO thought to what they bought other than price. A properly fitted magazine pouch should cover no more than half of the magazine body so the shooter can get a proper grip on it. Proper grip is important if you wish to do it well! A magazine pouch made for a Glock 17 is not a good choice for the 26, regardless of what the gun store clerk told you.

Others do it so well it is all they want to do!  Go on You Tube and watch all of the homemade videos of people attempting a one second speed reload. Many are quite good, but what does it mean? Bragging rights mostly, as performing a reload that fast, unless you are expecting it (like in a competition) is unlikely.  What about “load when you want to, not when you have to?” Having used the H & K MP-5 for many years (it did not lock open on the last round unless you had an MP-10) I am a BIG proponent of the concept, the problem is most are not capable of that level of focus…they will shoot their gun empty, even in practice. Yes, YOU may be the exception, but I am talking the typical student of pistol craft. Please resist the temptation of logging in to dispute this by telling me how awesome you are. I get it…

Even keeping the gun “topped off” seldom happens. I emphasize in my classes to keep the gun topped off. “There is no reason to start a three round drill with one round in your gun”, I say time and again, yet students continue to ignore my words. “I wanted to have a slide lock reload to force myself through it” I am told. Why would you do that? I know its bullshit and the student knows I know, but saying it is a way for them to save face. An armed professional always knows the status of their gear…something that can be accomplished with a bit of discipline. There is a time to reload under pressure, but a three round drill that is emphasizing some other skill set is NOT the time to do it! I want the student to concentrate on the skill being taught, not doing an unnecessary reload, which divides said concentration. And let’s be honest, most adults have only so much concentration capability, so I do not want to waste what they have on unnecessary actions!

So, when do we practice the reload? Some say we do not practice it at all, claiming that when the gun needs reloading during other training activities it will be enough. Sounds good, but will it? In my almost four decades of experience, this depends on the training regimen. If running the gun empty seldom happens in your routine, then it will probably not be enough. In addition, watch people when they do practice. The gun will go empty and they will reload it at some lackadaisical pace, as they do not want to “damage” their magazine by dropping it or don’t want to bend over to pick it up. If it is not “reload practice”, then it is not what will be emphasized. Lack of discipline, you say? Yep! It is…but saying this will not change it…its human nature, pure and simple. In my classes I constantly yell, “do not waste the opportunity for a good practice repetition!” meaning when you need to draw, reload, clear a stoppage, etc. do it like you are in a fight! But they won’t unless I ride them; they will fall back into just getting the task accomplished. Yep…lackadaisical…I sometimes wish I could just threaten my student’s lives just a little bit…make them understand what is at stake…but I just don’t want to go to jail at this late stage of my life. In the end, its up to them…

This is why I teach the reload and I make people practice it. I still teach the classic in battery speed load versus just teaching the emergency or slide lock reload. I do this as I think of the speed load as ”training wheels” for the emergency load.  If you take a moment to think about it, the emergency reload is the same as the speed load, you just have to drop the slide. Should we discuss the “controversy” of how to drop the slide? Shooting hand thumb, support hand thumb, over hand (saddle) grip, “pull on a rope” grip? You have no idea how much I do not give a shit how you release the slide! As long as you get it done as quickly as possible, that’s all I care about. For more on this, go to the Handgun Combatives You Tube channel where I address this subject in one of y videos.

What is interesting to note is even though I teach the speed load and tell students “load when you want to, not when you have to” the only time they will do so is when they are forced to do it…when they gun runs dry! You know what else is interesting? How they stand and stare at the gun when it does happen, especially when the slide does not lock open due to a malfunctioning slide lock lever or their shooting hand thumb was resting on it. This results in a five to six second reload which is a “get killed” level of speed…

Tactical or magazine retention reload? I show students a couple of ways to do this but spend little time practicing it. Why? They seem to get plenty of practice as they perform the “lackadaisical reload” previously discussed. You know, so they don’t damage or have to bend over a pick up their magazine. Ok, ok…rant off…sorry…

How fast should a reload be? As I previously stated, if a shooter does have to reload in a fight, it needs to be fast as the history of pistol fighting over several centuries has shown us they are over quickly...seconds not minutes. Just like the draw from the holster, I think you should be able to perform a shot to shot reload in around two to two and a half seconds with a pistol, regardless of the situation faced. No, this is not hard to do standing still with no stress on the square range, but can you do it on the move in the middle of a fight? Sitting behind the steering wheel of your car? Hunkered down behind low cover? Something to consider.  A revolver reload will be slower…no way around this even with speed loaders, but we have known for a long time that the primary advantage of a pistol over a revolver is capacity (not firepower…and AC-130 has firepower) and speed/ease of reload. The “New York Reload” as popularized by Jim Cirillo is the answer here.

Should I just “look” the magazine into the magazine well? Sounds inviting, but from personal experience…and the experience of the many people I have interviewed…you will have a hard time taking your eyes off of the person who is trying to kill you. And if you are behind cover, you will probably want to track where they are so they don’t flank you. “It is only a brief second” you say? Then go ahead and believe it /do it…I don’t care… I’m just telling you what will happen when someone is trying to take your life. You are welcome to any gun fighting fantasy you choose. I think it is ok to watch your magazine as you are learning, but as you get better, it is a good idea to do it quickly and efficiently by feel. There is a method for doing this that many instructors do not know or teach…reloading should be done by feel, not sight just like the draw.

In order to reload…or any crisis-level skill, really… to a level of motor skill “automaticity” you will have to practice it. PRACTICE is the key to any skill development and anchorage and anyone who disputes this does not understand proven motor learning skill development. How often should you practice? It depends on how much you suck at the particular skill! If you struggle with reloading, you will have to focus on it. I would suggest you practice reloading in a dry fire environment…don’t waste expensive ammo practicing to reload. If you can walk out on the range and perform a 2-2.5 second emergency reload cold, go practice something else! I start each of my practice sessions with a series of skill drills and I use them to tell me what I need to practice on that day. My reload standard is 1.5 seconds for a speed load and 2 seconds for an emergency reload. I add .25 second for garment removal. I will be honest here, if I am struggling with a skill, I will work it unconcealed until I smooth it out, then I will conceal.

I do each drill three times and if I hit the standards, I practice what I want on that day. If not, that is where I focus. It is a system that works for me and has done so for decades. As Bruce Lee so eloquently said, “Advanced skills are the basics mastered.” To me, “mastered” means automaticity.

So, did I change your opinions on reloading? Probably not…but if I have gotten you to think about it, consider what you do or how your practice, then I did my job. Did I step on what your guru thinks? Yeah…don’t care. What I do and teach I know works in the street over many years. It doesn’t mean other techniques don’t work; I just have confidence in mine. Stay safe, thanks for checking in and have a great holiday season!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Federal HST…the new standard of excellence.




There was a time when I collected shooting reports from all across the country. It started in the late 1980s when I was working on my master’s degree in criminal justice administration and I needed to pick a thesis topic. I proposed a research project entitled "The Incapacitation Effectiveness of Police Handgun Ammunition" and my student advisor and counseling professor accepted it.

In addition, I conducted ballistic research by shooting bullets into various mediums—including ballistic gelatin, wet undertaker’s cotton, duct sealant and water tanks—to determine whether or not one substance was better than another based on the bullets removed from human tissue. I was also permitted to use my agency’s letterhead to solicit shooting and autopsy reports from across the country. I contacted many of the country’s largest agencies and they responded to my request. I kept many of those contacts open over the years and continued to exchange data with officers across the country. I quit doing it several years ago as I retired (along with many of my contacts) and in truth, I wasn’t learning anything new.

This network kept me abreast on the types of ammo that worked on the street and which did not. Many promising ammo styles (based on lab testing) ended up as dismal failures in the street. Others proved worthy. I’ve seen continued success with the .38 special all-lead hollow point regardless of brand; the Winchester SXT and Speer Gold Dot regardless of caliber; and the Federal Hydra-Shok in slow- moving bullets, like the 230 grain .45 caliber or 147 grain 9 mm.

Recently, while driving home from a course in Richmond, VA with co-instructor Brian Buchanan, “Bucky” told me about a recent shooting his agency was involved in. The reason this event was significant is due to the department changing from .40 “back” to 9mm, something many in the department felt was moving in the wrong direction. If the first shooting had been a disaster, controversy would follow. As it turned out, the officer stopped the suspect with a 147-grain Federal HST load, which was selected after an exhausting test period, which included ammunition styles from across the spectrum. The Federal 147 HST was selected as the selection committee felt it had the best performance parameters, loosing nothing from the .40 S & W. The bullet performed flawlessly and raised confidence across the agency.

I’ve been watching the progress of Federal’s HST over the years as it takes some time to see street results and HST’s results have been impressive across the caliber spectrum, offering consistent expansion and optimum penetration for terminal ballistic performance, i.e. incapacitation potential. HST’s specially designed hollow-point tip won’t plug while passing through a variety of barriers, and it holds its jacket in the toughest conditions…two claims that have been born out over a growing number of shootings. HST is engineered to provide 100% weight retention through most barriers and impressive expansion, often as much as doubling its original diameter.

The hard object penetration was really brought home to me recently during a vehicle combat course I taught in Northern Minnesota. Two Federal employees were enrolled in the course and offered to insert ballistic gelatin into the cars during the small “lab segment “ in include in each class. During this block, I normally allow the students to shoot the vehicles with the ammo they carry to see how well it will penetrate. The gelatin just added to the experience and I can honestly say the HST loads in both 9mm and .40 worked flawlessly! They were only eclipsed by one load, the new Speer Gold Dot 2, designed for the FBI.

I should note, I was made aware of the encouraging lab results of the HST before it even hit the market. I was at Federal’s Anoka, Minn., plant writing an article on the Expanding Full-Metal Jacket (EMFJ) ammunition when I was asked if I wanted to see the next-generation hollow point. Hell yes—who wouldn’t I thought?!  I was shown a series of bullets that had been fired through various mediums into ballistic gelatin and all displayed incredibly consistent performance. I was then allowed to enter the ballistic lab and watch tests being conducted. I admit to being impressed by what I saw, but I wanted to see actual shooting data. Well, HST has been on the market long enough for shooting data to roll in and results show the bullet is as good as the early testing said it would be. As a matter of fact, it would not be out of line to say it is the most street proven load currently available.

Although some say HST stands for High Shock Two, Federal says it really doesn’t stand for anything other than a designation for
a line of ammo. During an email exchange
with Tom Burczynski, 
the inventor of the
 HST bullet as well
as several other
successful bullet designs, he
 wrote, “After
 testing, I submitted two different concepts (for two different bullets) to Federal. One concept dealt with a serrated core while the other dealt with a series of highly effective scores in the jacket. Federal engineers incorporated both concepts into the same bullet and dreamed up a way to align the serrations with the scores in the jacket. It is a pre-stressed core, which is why the expanded bullets look like El Dorado Starfire (no longer in production) and Speer Gold Dot.” It’s also the reason why the HST expands and penetrates so well through various barriers and materials.

According to Burczynski, early versions expanded well through FBI cloth, but not International Wound Ballistics Association denim test medium. Federal re-worked the bullet and later versions expanded well through denim as well. Over the years, Federal tweaked the bullet’s velocity—raising the velocity of some loads while lowering others—to get the maximum performance parameters from each load. In the end, Federal has a bullet design that’s only rivaled by the Gold Dot in on-the-street effectiveness. I have seen actual shooting data on the 124 and 147 grain 9 mm, 165 and 180 grain .40 S & W and the 230 grain +P .45. The performance of the HST in this limited number of actual shootings is exemplary. The 124 and 147 loads expanded to .65 and .63 in tissue, while the .40 loads deformed to .66 and .65 respectively. The +P .45 was recovered at autopsy to have expanded to a whopping .74 caliber—that’s three fourths of an inch! Even though this is a limited number of shootings, it’s certainly enough for me to recommend with HST with confidence.

Recently, I decided to perform my own tests with the HST using both 10% ordnance gelatin ( a real pain in the ass, to be honest) and rolls
 of-wet undertaker’s cotton. The cotton material was a substance formerly used by the crime lab in my jurisdiction to trap bullets for ballistic comparison. David Taulbee, the late master firearm’s examiner at the lab (and one of the smartest ballistics experts I’ve ever met), noticed the bullets he fired into the cotton looked very similar to those removed from bodies at autopsy. He conducted a number of tests in the mid-1980s and determined the rolls of cotton were an excellent way to test bullet expansion and I couldn’t agree more. I fired the bullets into the gelatin and cotton at 15 feet with the bullets crossing the screen of a Shooting Chrony chronograph. I only charted penetration in the gelatin, as it is difficult to do in the cotton. Cotton is a great “back yard” test medium for those who wish to do it yourself. The leg of a pair of blue jeans covered the gelatin and cotton and the guns used were a Glock 17, 22 and 21.

To test accuracy, I bench rested the three guns and grouped each load at 25 yards that, admittedly, is outside the normal distance law enforcement or armed citizen use of a handgun, but in the age of the Active Killer, “normal” is being pushed out further. That said, when testing a gun’s accuracy, why not take it to the limit?

In the end, only you or your agency can determine what load or caliber is right for you and yours. Note: I don’t recommend purchasing ammo solely based on a magazine article review. Instead, research and test any potential issue or carry load for yourself. HST is a real good place to start!

Caliber      Load Type      Velocity    Cotton   Gelatin      Penetration
9 mm   124 grain +P  1,177 fps   .65 .62           12.5 inches
9 mm   147 grain    987 fps   .64 .61           14.5 inches
.40 S & W 165 grain  1,112 fps   .66 .67           14.5 inches
.40 S & W 180 grain  1,008 fps   .64 .66           15.5 inches
.45 ACP    230 grain +P    977 fps    .70         .71             13.5 inches








Thursday, October 13, 2016

Choosing the Combat Handgun: Don’t get “wrapped around the axle”…




Many years ago, the late, great Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper told me, while engaged in a private conversation in his home, “The Sconce”, the three primary features required when selecting a combat pistol were “reliability, high visibility sights and a good trigger”. Hard to dispute these and I consider them iron clad, but in this day and age I would add fit. The number of pistol models has grown considerably over the years and the gun must fit your hand if you are going to shoot to your potential.


Today, a pistol made by a reputable manufacturer will probably be as reliable as human design and engineering can allow. Yes, individual models might be turds, but these lone samples should not reflect on the model line in its totality. In my classes, which occur most every weekend and have between 12 and 16 students, 70 % of the guns are Glocks. Seldom do I see a problem with a Glock, even the ones that have been (in some cases highly) customized. When I do see Glock problems, it is usually do to too weak springs in an attempt to make the trigger "better". The next 15% is the Smith & Wesson M&P with the remaining 15% a smattering of all other pistols...1911's, HK VP-9's and SIG 320’s for the most part. All of these guns are "reliable" and run well.


High visibility sights would be the next requirement and this would be up to the shooter. While I was recently criticized by a high profile instructor for saying "buy the sights you like" (he feels a good instructor can teach you to shoot with any sights which has some validity, but selecting what you like is certainly a plus. In reality, he was just stirring up shit where there was none), I stand by this statement/feeling. I like my Ameriglo CAP Sights, which offers a square in a square with a bright colored front sight, while others prefer thin black on black sights like those designed by Kyle Defoor. The Ameriglo Hackathorn Sight and the Trijicon High Visibility sight are quite popular and for good reason...they work! I have seen many students do good work with the XS Big and Small dot sights...I really don't care as long as you can hit what you are shooting at from contact distance to 25 yards. Being able to truly SEE the sights is also a big plus! The great thing...in case you missed it...is there are a large number of sight configurations to choose from!


A "good trigger”...this is where many become confused, as a good trigger is not the same as a light trigger. A good trigger is one that can be depressed smoothly to the rear without glitches, snags and catches in the action. Having a smooth trigger helps keep the hand from clenching when trying to depress the trigger, which will take the muzzle off target. Keep in mind 1/8th inch of muzzle movement is 4 inches at 20 feet. Thus, having a smooth trigger is critical! It is wise to remember the hand works as a team, with four fingers opposing a thumb, while the thumb and index finger are also “hard wired” to work together. Isolation of the index finger is certainly possible, but is difficult to do when you ask it to apply pressure individually…the rest of the fingers WILL want to help!  Compression of the pinky finger can really move the muzzle…remember the pistol is a lever and what is done at one end will move the other.

Man…rifles are so much easier to shoot, aren’t they!! Too bad they are not as portable… crap…

When I was still carrying a revolver on duty, it was quite common to have an action job performed, as most revolver actions were atrocious from the factory. Consider all of the moving parts that engage and interact in a revolver…to cock the hammer and rotate the cylinder…most revolver triggers felt like one snag after another! A good action job did not lighten the trigger, it smoothed out all of the engagement surfaces so the trigger could be “rolled” to the rear without taking the muzzle off target. Revolver actions that were nothing more than “clipping coils” off the hammer spring resulted in an unreliable weapon, which violates the first requirement listed here. Not good…

Pistol actions should seek the same end result…a smooth depressing to the rear, not a light trigger. The popular Glock has the famous “catch” in the trigger action that occurs when the tail end of the trigger bar engages the connector shelf, which pulls the trigger bar down to release the striker. If you think about it, the Glock is just a big slingshot…pull back, let go! Sure wish I had thought of it…this simplicity is what makes it so popular…

 The 3.5 connector (like those available from Ghost Inc.) was created to offer a less severe angle to this shelf to help reduce this glitch or catch, but it also lightens the over all trigger weight which concerns some. Trigger weight can easily be added by increasing the weight or the trigger and striker springs. In addition, polishing the engagement surfaces of the internal parts on a Glock can smooth the action but make sure you don’t round the edges, which can make the gun unreliable. Sharp edges of the trigger components are required to properly engage one another and perform their function(s). When in doubt, let a qualified gunsmith do the job.

The 1911’s are the easiest pistols to shoot as far as the index finger is concerned. The trigger action is short and slides straight to the rear versus most other pistol designs, which rotate from the top. The downside of the 1911 is the additional safety levers that must be engaged and disengaged during operation, which makes the gun unpopular in some circles. I have shot 6, 8 even 10 pound pistol triggers that were smooth and worked quite well. Ernest Langdon performed an action job on my Beretta 92FC and turned that gun into a pistol that was VERY easy to shoot! The problem was I could not reach the trigger, which leads us to the requirement I have added…fit.

When I think of the word “fit” as it relates to the handgun, I picture the pistol fitting square into the web of the hand (along the bones of the fore arm) and the index finger engaging the trigger with proper “geometry”…placement of the pad square on the trigger face without having to stretch out to reach it. At the same time, not having too much finger sticking through to the opposing side of the gun as both conditions will affect a shooter’s ability to depress the trigger straight to the rear without muzzle movement.  Folks with large hands can easily find a pistol that will properly fit… it’s those of us (like me!) who have small hands or short fingers that struggle. A pistol with a single column grip can help, but I, for one, like the added capacity of a double column handgun. Having to reload in a gunfight is a complex task and adding a thin single column magazine/magazine well just adds to this complexity.  In my mind, more bullets is certainly better!

Changing the grip…something that was done with boring regularity on revolvers…can help and having pistols with inter-changeable back straps has been a real Godsend for many.  Being able to reduce the grip and length of reach around the grip tang helps achieve the proper finger geometry. Glock has been the real challenge and while the reduced grip of the 4th generation gun has helped (I am told the new M Series is even better), it is the after market grip reduction…first undertaken by Robbie Barrkman of Robar…that has made the Glock a more “shoot-able” pistol for many. Legal experts seem to agree changing the grip on any gun is OK; so to struggle with a too large grip is just silly.

What I would like to see is the incorporation of more reduced or short reach triggers. Triggers that are actually curved or reconfigured to reduce the reach around the grip tang by the index finger for enhanced placement. It would be best if the manufacturers did this…SIG used to offer a short reach trigger for their original P-226 and 228 pistols and I have one on my P-228…it really helps! Bob Meszaros of Templar Custom Arms has worked out a solution for a shorter reach trigger for the Glock he calls the FACT (Fast Action Combat) Trigger which does not lighten the trigger action. As a matter of fact (pun intended) it uses a five -pound connector but you would not know it! Those in the legal community argue such a trigger could increase liability, but I choose to enhance my shooting ability instead of worrying about this. If I am involved in a shooting and the short reach trigger becomes an issue, I am prepared to defend my use by arguing it made it more likely for me to hit what I am shooting at versus errant rounds flying astray. That said, this decision is certainly up to you and you should think about it.

Caliber…it wasn’t part of the opening paragraph, but how can we talk about pistol selection without at least mentioning it? While I have always been skeptical of ballistic gelatin, recent weeks have finally settled my mind on the issue and I believe we now have enough data…both from the street and from the lab…to predict handgun ammo performance. It also settled in my mind that current generation ammo design has made the .40 S&W (.357 SIG??) obsolete. If you like it, use it, but I am convinced its performance is no longer superior to the 9mm due to current ammo design…why put up with the reduced capacity or the added recoil? Again, up to you. The .45 ACP? I agree with Ken Hackathorn and believe it is about 10% better than the 9…which is not so much that it will make up for poor shot placement. In the end, you have to hit what you are shooting at. Again, caliber selection is up to you…

There you have it: reliability, high visibility sights, good trigger and proper fit (with caliber crammed in)…if you shop well and achieve all of these you will likely have a combat handgun you can count on to save your life! Of course, training and practice are JUST AS IMPORTANT as selecting the gun. Thus, choose wisely and train hard!

Thanks for checking in!



Monday, October 3, 2016

Handgun Ammo Selection: The best ever!





It has been an interesting month. Over the last four weeks I have taught several Vehicle Combatives courses along with a special event for Ruger at the FTW Ranch in Texas. In all of these events, I have been involved in a variety of handgun ammunition tests that have led me (once again) to state we have THE BEST combative handgun ammo ever!

It started in 1987 when several FBI Agents died in a shoot out with several armored car robbers in Miami, Florida. One of the two suspects fought like a rapid dog even after taking fatal wounds and it was later determined one of the 9mm bullets did not penetrate deep enough to reach vital organs. While this determination has been disputed and debated, what did happen was a revolution in handgun ammunition design and development. Yes, we worked our way though the 10mm Lite and the .40 S&W…and these were useful additions at the time…but we have once again settled on the 9mm or .45 as the aforementioned R & D into combative ammunition has pretty much eliminated any advantage the .40 had over the 9.

I have seen proof of this over the last few weeks as bullet after bullet has been fired into vehicles, though wallboard and into typical clothing on its way to ballistic gelatin, the international standard for testing ammo effectiveness. What I have seen time and again in the last few weeks is a wide selection of rounds punch though a variety of intermediate barriers, expand and penetrate to a depth that is potentially fatal to anyone on the wrong end of the bullet. While I will be the first to tell you ballistic gelatin in not the same as a human torso, it is a valid test when comparing one round against another. There is just no way to know how any small arm round will affect an amped up, attacking human being…there never will be until we can place our “Phasers on stun”. That said, ballistic gelatin is the best alternative to human tissue, but the smart student of wound ballistics will combine street data with laboratory testing…something I have tried to do for decades now.

While in Kalamazoo, Michigan, students fired a number of 9mm and .45 rounds through auto glass into paper targets to determine deflection, something that is greatly affected by the slant of any windshield. That said, rounds like the Federal HST, Speer Gold Dot, Hornady Critical Duty/Defense and Barnes-X all copper hollow points worked quite well. A few weeks later, I traveled to FTW and witnessed a VERY extensive ballistic laboratory put on by Hornady showing the across the board effectiveness of their Critical Duty ammunition in all of the FBI protocols. The impressive thing here is Hornady set up each protocol side-by-side and shot through each barrier one after another. The blocks of gelatin were next to each other so the participants in attendance could see the consistent expansion and penetration right down the line.

A week later, I headed to Brainerd, Minnesota for another Vehicle Combatives course where several Vista Outdoor (Federal/Speer) employees were students and brought along a nice supply of ballistic gelatin so students could see what their chosen load would do not only though auto glass, but what the bullet would do in the gel after it has passed through the glass. In every Vehicle Combatives course I teach, I set aside a block of time for each student to test their carry load against various parts of a vehicle for their own edification. In this case, the folks from Vista placed blocks of gel in the vehicle so the student could see the whole picture. What was unique about this set up was actual cars were used, not pieces of auto glass placed in a brace a set distance from the gelatin block.

Of course, with all of this ballistic gelatin available, students wanted to see as much of the FBI protocol as they could and the folks from Vista were more than happy to oblige. They had a nice supply of Federal 147 grain HST, Speer 147 grain Gold Dot 2 (the new FBI load), Speer 124 grain Gold Dot +P (the NYPD load) and Federal 165 grain HST .40. The results of the test were impressive! Every round penetrated and deformed as they passed through various barriers and penetrated 10 inches plus. The clothing used was not swatches of cloth, the old coats and shirts the students brought along. Great participation! While I had read some very critical tests of the Gold Dot 2 on line, I did not see anything like what I read during this test…and this was done with real cars, clothing and the like…not a laboratory setting in any way.

What the past month has done is make me rethink is my selection of the 9mm all copper hollow point as my carry load. While I still believe the all copper bullet has a bright future, in the most recent testing I witnessed I did not see a level of superiority over the bullets discussed here. In addition, as I travel to from class to class, I have received complaints from students about the all copper hollow points as they are hard to get, expensive and in the case of one company, they are treated rudely by employees when inquiries are made in regards to availability. Indeed, I have been blown off by this company myself over the last half year! This will certainly affect anyone’s viewpoint of a particular product and the desire to endorse it, no matter how good it is.

No worries, however, as we have THE BEST combative handgun ammo in history…of that I am convinced. I only know of one shooting with the new Gold Dot 2…certainly not enough to establish a track record…but the round performed as designed so this is certainly encouraging. The Federal HST is THE choice for American law enforcement and it has an increasingly impressive performance record in the street…something that can also be said for the NYPD’s 124 grain +P Gold Dot. Combine this with impressive test results and it would appear the choice is clear, right? Not so fast you say? There are other good choices? You are right, of course…but the choice/search is certainly much easier than ever before…

Thanks for checking in…

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pistol Lights and Concealed Carry...the time is now!


The majority of time I spent on patrol was on the night shift. Flashlights, what are now commonly called “hand held white lights” (I love it when we make things simpler), were the size of a tail pipe and just as likely to be used as an impact weapon as a lighting device. I used my light in this fashion on several occasions and can honestly say that a large metal tube impacting the center of a suspect’s fore head was quite effective. Keep in mind this was before the Graham and Garner decisions and the Use of Force was not yet determined to be a "seizure" under the 4th Amendment, so it was more of a “no blood, no paper” period of time. Today the use of a flashlight as an impact weapon is a “no go” and carrying a large flashlight is non-existent for cops and armed citizens alike. It is also unnecessary as light technology has advanced to the point where flashing a light in someone’s eyes can be disabling in itself…no need to hit them. I have a light the size of a lipstick tube that offers more power than the one I once carried that was powered by five D cell batteries!

The next move was to mount lights on long guns, something that had been somewhat crude for many years. As far back as the mid 1970’s, law enforcement and military units were mounting full size flashlights on shotguns and sub-machine guns with tape and metal pipe strapping which was a big improvement over trying to hold a flashlight and shoot a long gun. When Surefire introduced their weapon lights molded into the fore grip of a Remington 870 and Heckler and Koch MP-5, agencies and individuals could not buy them fast enough. Today, it is a rare thing to see a combative-grade long gun without a white light attached.

In the late 1990’s, I commanded a multi-jurisdictional narcotics task force that conducted its own raids, something we were doing several times a week at one point. Heckler and Koch had introduced their USP Compact pistol, which was capable of temporarily attaching a white light to the frame. This allowed Task Force Agents to carry the gun “slick” while concealed, but mount the white light when conducting a forced entry. I purchased the gun and light with seized asset funds and the gun was greeted with medium enthusiasm as some of the agents chose to carry the gun they already had. Those that did carry the HK liked the quick on and off capability. Admittedly, one of my concerns with the new weapon system was agents using the gun/light combination as a lighting device and not a firearm and though I never did see any of them use the gun in this fashion, I did see a few of them looking through drawers and closets for evidence with the gun as a light.  This was quickly corrected…

Today, the pistol mounted light is common not just for tactical teams but on patrol as well and I admit to being concerned originally about how these lights/weapons would be used. Talking with trainers and commanders across the country, it appears my concerns were unfounded, as officers understand the proper use of the weapon mounted light. It seems law enforcement trainers are doing a good job of explaining the weapon-mounted light is a supplement to the hand held light and not a replacement! The hand held light can be pointed in directions the weapon mounted light should not, but when a serious threat arises, the weapon mounted light allows both hands to be placed on the handgun for greater accuracy, enhanced incapacitation potential and reduced liability. It seems the weapon-mounted light is as common as handcuffs and is being used in a tactically sound fashion.

In recent years, the weapon-mounted light has moved to the concealed carry pistol by investigators, off-duty officers and legally armed citizens for EDC.  Admittedly, this was not a trend I followed as I did not want to add more bulk to a gun I was trying to hide. I opted to stay with my hand held light clipped to my pocket or on my key ring, which served me well for decades.  That said I make it a point to tell my students to avoid the words “never” or “always” when it comes to developing combat skills or purchasing equipment. Note that I listed developing skills first as how does one know what they need until they learn the skills required to make a proper choice?  Buying before learning seldom meets with success…

I’m glad I never said “never” as it relates to mounting a light on a concealed carry pistol as we now have lights small enough to conceal. The pistol weapon light is better than ever before, offering greater power, reduced size, weight and enhanced ergonomics. Some of these lights also come with laser sighting devices, which some will like and some will not and that choice is up to you. One of my favorites of this new generation of compact weapon lights is the Surefire XC-1.  Specifically designed to accommodate railed, compact handguns, the unit features a high-performance LED with a Lumen output of 200. The Max Vision Beam is perfect for maintaining situational awareness and identifying threats, something that is often forgot when buying a weapon mounted light.  Max Vision offers a beam with no bright center…a bright white light across the beam meaning threats can be identified at the edge of the beam and not just the center.

The XC-1 is not only compact, but also quite robust with a body made from aerospace aluminum that is hard anodized for a tough Mil-Spec finish.  The unit measures just 2.5 inches, weighs less than two ounces and is powered by a single AAA battery so it adds little bulk and weight to your concealed carry pistol.  The ambidextrous activation switch is both momentary and constant on so it can be adapted to the situation at hand. Momentary activation is achieved by placing your support hand thumb on top of one of the two rear downward-activated switches and pushing down, or you can position your support thumb against the same switch and push forward until the switch toggles down. Simply remove pressure and the light will turn off.

If you wish to incorporate a laser into your compact white light then Streamlight has the answer.  The TLR-6 is designed to fit on to the front of 18 various compact and sub-compact pistols including the new Glock 43, M&P Shield, Kahr series and SIG Arms.  The unit features a 100 Lumen LED light combined with 640-660 nm read laser.  A parabolic reflector produces a balanced beam with peripheral illumination for greater on-site awareness.  An ambidextrous switch offers push button engagement on both sides of the unit long with laser or light only functions.  The TLR-6 offers a 10- minute auto shut off to conserve batteries and these batteries can be replaced while the light remains on the gun. The unit is powered by two CR1/3N batteries, which are included, while the laser is adjustable for both windage and elevation.  The unit is 2.3 to 2.7 inches in length, depending on which gun it is designed to fit, and is only 1.27 ounces in weight.

I have used both units extensively, the XC-1 on a Glock 19 while the TLR-6 was mounted on a Glock 43.  I did not hold back on rough use, wanting to see if either units would loose its light, while also wanting to know if the Streamlight laser would loose its zero.  I also left the TLR-6 on to see if it would, indeed, turn off on its own which I am happy to report it did.  I am also happy to report the two lights stood up to everything I could throw at them which is probably more rough treatment than the average plainclothes officer or armed citizen would do, which is mostly just dropping the unit on a hard surface.  Truth be told, I did just that from varied heights ranging from 3 to ten feet and both lights suffered no ill effects.

When selecting a white light, think more than just the number of lumens involved. Think about how the hand interacts with the light, how easily the light goes on and off the gun and about the beam itself. Oftentimes, the beam will have a very bright center and that is where the lumen level will be measured. I prefer a beam that is constant in brightness even if it offers a lower Lumen rating so I get the greatest field of view to look for additional threats, which is what I got with both of these lights. I tested a light a few months back that had such a bright “hot spot” in the middle of the beam that is was actually distracting! My eyes were pulled to the center of the beam, which is not good when the eyes need to scan as wide as possible for potential threats.

The compact pistol light is here to stay and I believe it will only be a matter of time before they begin to replace the larger lights found on patrol and SWAT officer handguns. Why not? They are just as tough, bright and easy to use as their larger counterparts. It’s also nice to have a gun that goes from patrol to SWAT to off-duty …”beware of the man who has but one gun for he likely knows how to use it!”

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The 5 x 5 Drill




My good buddy Dave Timm of Learning Firearms  (www.learningfirearms.com) in Minnesota has come up with a great drill for both pistols and carbines. In a nutshell, the 5 x 5 Drill tests a shooters ability to be both fast an accurate, which is what is required to win in a gunfight. The target is available from the Learning Firearms web site:

http://www.learningfirearms.com/training/5x5drill.html

If you check out their page, you will note that they have followed in the footsteps of Todd Green and his F.A.S.T. Drill and my 2x2x2 Drill and award a coin to any one who performs the drill successfully in a Learning Firearms course. The procedure is as follows:

Pistol Drill Procedure:

All stages begin from holster, hands at side. Holster shall be student's duty or daily carry equipment, concealed unless duty gear is used. All rounds must be within black box and within par time to count as a hit. The shooter will fire five rounds at each of the five distances for 25 rounds total within the listed par times: 25yards-10seconds, 20yards-8seconds, 15yards-6seconds, 10yards-4secounds and 5yards-3seconds.

Rifle Drill Procedure:

All stages begin with a shouldered rifle pointed at the ground at the base of the target target.
All rounds must be within the black box and within par time to count as a hit.
Shooter will fire five rounds at each of the five distances for 25 rounds total within the listed par times: 50yards-10seconds, 40yards-8seconds, 30 yards-6seconds, 20yards-4seconds and 10yards-2seconds.


I have shot the drill twice with my Glock 19 and missed one round in the prescribed time limits on the first run while in the second run got all hits but kissed the 25 yards time limit by two tenths of a second. It is a very instructional, fun and difficult drill that is attainable if you practice the skills needed to make the drill a success, not practice the drill time and time again. Remember! It is a learned skill if you have a high probability of success on the first attempt…not success after many attempts.

Enjoy!


Monday, August 29, 2016

Pistol Sights…What is it you want? Do you even know?





I recently received a question from a shooter who purchased my CAP Sights but was concerned about his lack of accuracy. When I inquired as to what happened, he told me he had difficulty at 50 yards. I’m not surprised…the Ameriglo Combative Application Pistol (CAP) Sight was designed to be a very compact, low to the bore line, high visibility close quarter sight in which the shooter covers what they want to hit at 15 yards and in. It is a true “flash sight picture” sight where the shooters places the square in the square and depresses the trigger. There is very little “light” in the front to back sight spacing in order to reduce quick sighting error. As you move back, it is necessary for the shooter to experiment to see where they need to hold, in a nutshell, what the sight picture needs to “look like” to hit at increased distances. This “picture” should then be easy to recreate but, admittedly, the sight is not designed for long distance shooting.

In truth, the CAP Sight is likely too wide for this type long distance shooting. If this is your desire, a tall thin front sight, which offers greater target information further back, is the ticket. In my mind, sights like the Heine, 10-8, Travis Haley’s Th1rte3n Sight or Frank Proctor’s Y-Notch would be a better choice, all of which are terrific products. The down side of the thinner sight is it will be harder to “pick up” quickly at closer distances. Yes, you could paint the front sight, but that will affect its use at long distance, as its sharp edges will be “blurred” by the added color. I say this based on previous experience as I have seen it in my classes time and again for years. I see just about every variation of pistol sight in my courses and I often request to shoot a particular gun so I can see how the sights work. I also ask the student what they like about their sight…why they chose them… and I get some interesting answers. What I have noticed is students with thinner/taller sights do great when shooting a 3 x 5 card at 25 yards, but they are slower on target when shooting the close, fast drills as compared to the CAP or Trijicon high visibility sight. What is it you want?

I have read many, many research studies over the last few decades stating the eyes are incapable of sight focus in close conflict and there is truth in what these studies say. And while many instructors refer to these studies when discussing close quarter shooting, I think of it at a more basic, visceral level based on my personal experiences…when a person at close distance is trying to kill you it is real hard to take your eyes off of them and shift focus to the front sight. I believe this occurs at an instinctual level where they eyes just refuse to shift as they track the actions of the threat. Yep, the human body has a history of taking good care of itself and it takes a monumental effort to reprogram it.

If this is the case, why mess with the sights at all? In truth, you are more likely to miss due to poor trigger manipulation than lack of sight picture at close distances, but what is close quarters? 2 feet? 20 feet? 20 yards? While sights are certainly not needed at arms length, how far back can you hit without them? Some say 12 yards…other as much as 20! But this is certainly not the case for me. I practice out to around 20 feet without my sights and hit quite well but as I move back towards 30 feet, I start to loose the fight ending accuracy needed to stop a determined aggressor with a handgun. In addition, I need help referencing my front sight quickly, so I have colored the front sight since my revolver days in the 70’s and early 80’s. Revolvers with target-style sights came equipped with red, green or orange plastic insert front sights and those that did not, often times got a coating of Liquid Paper!

Coloring the front is not new, Jeff Cooper commented on this in the early 1970’s stating, “If you are going to color your front sight, use a color not normally found in nature”. For many years, a brass bead front sight was quite popular. During several situations I was involved in (while a cop) during which my pistol was deployed, I can definitely remember the “flash” of color my front sight gave me even at close quarters while moving quickly and visually tracking a threat, something I have also been told during many interviews I have conducted with gunfight participants over the last three decades. I am convinced a colored front sight is the way to go on combative handguns.

Some knowledgeable folks disagree, however. Many informed shooters and instructors believe handgun sights are for long distances only and they design or recommend sights intended for this purpose. As a consumer, you must decide which sight system is best for you based on your requirements, vision, level of training, experience, “real world of work”, etc. I am not convinced that one sight system will work well across the board (both fast at close range and precise at long range) especially if you suffer from any degree of vision loss. I have spoken to many shooters who, in their young years, advocated black on black sights only to age and find a colored sight was a better option.

There are additional questions when choosing a pistol sight: Is a tritium bead essential? Will a fiber optic work better? If a color, which color does my eyes see best? Which color is best for me across the light spectrum? Are you competing or fighting? Are you shooting white steel plates (or brown cardboard targets) or the multi-colored clothes of people? Will you be out at night? Are your eyes the same as the instructor recommending a particular sight? These questions are potentially endless and only you can answer them… but do you really understand the original question that started the whole process?! I had one student tell me he liked how his sights had a large round orange dot on the front and a round bottom rear window on the back in which he could “drop the round front sight in the round rear window”. However, when I asked him if this is what he is looking at when he sighted his gun he said “no…I’m looking at the top edges”. If this is the case, does the rounded lower of the two sights matter? I don’t know… but if you pick such a sight you should know!

In the end, it comes down to critical thought based on knowledge, training and experience. Do you actually know why you picked a set of sights or did you do so on the basis of an advertisement, seeing them on a gun or instructor recommendation/reputation? Such ads and recommendations can be helpful if they solve YOUR problem…but only you can know what your problem is!

As a side note, I admit to being concerned about the trend of emphasizing long distance pistol shooting… I believe it is a mistake as we have been here before and it was proven to be wrong. When I went through the Sheriff’s Academy in 1976, much time was spent at 50 and 60 yards even though handgun shootings at such distances were rare and still are. From the days of the Wild West forward, the history of pistol fighting has been close quarters with incidents like Wild Bill’s 75- yard shot in Springfield, MO. being unusual. What is the old saying, ”those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it?” Why are we returning to it? The Active Shooter/Terrorism phenomenon, I am told. I constantly hear questions/statements like, “How long is the front aisle of the Wal-Mart?” or “How wide is the parking lot at the mall” but should we be launching pistol bullets at such distances? A resounding “YES!” I have been told repeatedly. “If you can shoot at 25 yards, you can easily handle 5 yards”…you know, we were told this very same thing back in the 70’s but it was not born out by reality. Do you realize/understand what such a statement does not include? The pandemonium that will accompany a five-yard gunfight! Hostile and non-hostiles moving back and forth across the battle space, screaming, yelling, incoming and out going rounds…you see, it is much, much different than just planting your feet and shooting a few rounds at distance on a piece of paper or steel while on the square range.

Now, do not take what I have just said out of context…you should know how to shoot at distance, but should it be your primary focus as I am seeing more and more? Stop and ask yourself a question…are you more likely to face a mugger in the parking lot at 5 yards or an active killer/terrorist in the Wal-Mart center aisle at 50 yards? Don’t know? Do a simple on-line search of crime statistics and see which occurs more frequently…murder, rape, robbery, assault, home invasion or the active killer/terrorist? My good friend and former CIA SAD Officer Ed Lovette did a pretty extensive study of armed citizen shootings and discovered that not only are they close, they are most likely to happen in and around the home. I know I know…training for an active killer/terrorist just feels so much cooler as compared to a simple crime, but is doing so reality or a training scar? Keep in mind, reality is what it is…not what we WANT it to be…

 Again, keep in mind such a shot will not take place in a range vacuum…can you make a 50 yard shot in a pandemonium-filled event (people running and screaming, adrenaline high, respiration at maximum) such a situation would actually entail? I find it interesting the number of shooters who worry about the “liability” of modifying their carry gun, but think it is perfectly fine to launch bullets across a parking lot or down the aisles of a major store. Watch the videos from various terrorist attacks and active shooter events…could you make a long shot with people in panic everywhere? I tried this recently during a class, running a Moto-Shot robot target back and forth across the line of fire as students tried to hit a full size silhouette (no attempt at shot placement) at 50 yards. No one delivered a fight -stopping hit as they split their focus between the target and the robot. Rapidly moving, panicked people will only magnify this. Remember, the reason we shoot is to incapacitate…to end the attack…so you need to hit well!

Sure, anything is possible but what is more likely for you? This process is called critical thought and you should be using it when you select a set of pistol sights or decide how to prepare to handle your personal security. As I close, please understand I am not attacking the lesson plan of any other instructor…I don’t disparage others…it is unprofessional. But I do believe in critical thought! I truly believe no one teaches something they really believe is stupid (at least I hope not!). They teach what they think is important, which is why a good student of combative pistol craft learns from a wide variety of instructors, to get varied viewpoints, opinions and backgrounds...military, law enforcement, security contractors and armed citizens. They then combine what they have learned with what they know to be realistic for their real world of work and they make an informed decision via critical thought. Pistol sights are no different…choose wisely and smartly…