What is your first consideration when selecting a gun for CCW?

There are hundreds of guns, with hundreds of people swearing how good their guns are. There are thousands of people writing on gun forums everyday attesting to the superior gun in their arsenal . . and then there are even people who profess any gun will do. Will the only consideration I have when looking for a gun that I am going to bet my life will work when it is called upon. A known history of reliability.

I can read the forums and reviews, I can ask the guys at the gun store, I can ask old Uncle Joe and I can even talk to the manufacturers but in the end, every single of them is offering their opinion, generally based on what they like. I need something more if I am going to bet my life on a gun. States and local agencies believe it or not base their purchases to some degree on cost. That does not work for me because my life is priceless. I do not care what the gun costs, my only concern is that it never, ever fails to fire.

In 1986 I had made the decision that I was going to carry concealed. At that time there was no permits required so I just started carrying a S&W Model 60 Combat in .357 Rem Mag. It is a great gun, fun to shoot, dead accurate if fired in the single action mode and seemed to be pretty reliable as many LE agencies were carrying that exact gun. One day on the range I cocked the hammer and the trigger would not budge. I banged the cylinder hard into my palm and kept trying to fire or uncock the gun. NOTHING would work. After calling my friend Tim and TJ’s Gunsmith in Aurora Colorado I took the loaded and cocked gun to him. He grasped the barrel holding the gun upside down and grabbed a rubber mallet off his bench. Now I’m looking at him wondering what he was going to do with that mallet and he started wailing away on the trigger guard. I quickly looked around the shop for someplace to hide expecting that 357 to go bang at any moment.

So Tim would hit it a few times and then try to uncock it, hit is some more and try again. Finally after several whacks with said mallet he was able to uncock and unload the gun. I’m standing there with my mouth hanging open and said “what in the heck did you just do”. Time replied that there had been some firing debris, most likely copper jacket, which had gotten into the cylinder lock. I stated that I had never seen that happen in over 35 years of shooting revolvers. Tim said, oh ya, it happens all the time, you probably just didn’t realize it. He then looks at me and says, did you bang on the cylinder when it first locked up? Standing there, mouth hanging open nodding my head up and down, and Tim was right it had happened before. That very night the Smith went into the safe and out came an S&W Model 3914, never again did the revolver ride my hip in self-defense; I had lost all faith in its ability to save my life in the time of need.

The 3914 was a sweet little gun; carried it into 1988, never seemed to fail me but I had been studying a Miami shooting the FBI had been involved in and was very concerned about the 9mm being able to stop the bad guy in that moment of need. The FBI had recently changed to the Sig Sauer P229 chambered in .40 S&W so I thought I would give it a try, bought that and a H&K USP Compact the same day and started shooting them. As a quick side note, any gun I carry I have shot at least 1,000 rounds through and have owned them for at least a year before I ever bet my life on it.

The competition between the Sig and the H&K went smoothly over the next year and I started carrying the Sig. I carried that gun almost full time, collected a lot of holsters for it, watched it wear a hole in the liner of my sport coats AND as of today it has fired over 104,000 rounds without one single hiccup. From this experience I learned something about reliability. The FBI does not care what a gun costs, they will test the gun to the extreme for they have only one concern, when the trigger is pressed it will go boom, every single time. That is a zero failure rate gun.

In 1984 the Sig P226 passed the XM9 Service Pistol Trials but the Beretta was chosen due to cost. The Navy Seals in their independent fashion picked up the Sig then, due solely to reliability. Much like the FBI, the Seals only concern is reliability.

From this I have learned, if I want to know about reliable guns I will go to the people who use those guns daily to save their lives, and who better than those who do not care about cost, the Federal Government.

Since that time the FBI switched from Sig to the Glock in 2002 although agents may use the Sig if they wish. There is my reliability standard.

We have added another maker to our own EDC list, that is Kahr, they make great guns, the slimmest around and come in a variety of weights and sizes.

Well what about the latest and greatest hot new gun from S&W or Springfield . . . or maybe even some cheap little Ruger? I would hate to buy a new gun and have to take immediately to a gun smith to have the trigger replaced with something other than OEM equipment. I will be willing to give these guys guns a try after they have had a decade to two in service with the FBI and USSOCOM.

Imagine coming home and you see an email that the gun you have been betting your life on has been recalled? Or you’re at the range shooting with a friend and the trigger on his little cheap pea-shooter just breaks off? Would you really want to bet your life or your loved ones life on something that is not the most reliable gun made?
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What’s going to Happen If I Have to Draw My Gun?

Many citizens who carry a gun have perhaps never really considered what is going to happen once the fight goes to guns. The reason for this is simple statistics; the vast majority of attempted crimes are thwarted the moment the victim target presents a gun. In other words the criminal is psychologically defeated.

Here is the good news. The number of times this happens annually varies wildly depending on the source of the date from as low 830,000 to 2.5 million. Clearly the number is not going to be readily agreed upon since they are statistical inferences as in this type of gun use, more often than not the attempted crime goes unreported but the point I am making is simply this, someone comes after you with a lethal threat and you respond by pulling a gun on them somewhere between 92% to 98% of the bad guys are going to turn tail and run. So will you ever have to draw your gun? There is a good possibility of that happening. Will you ever have to shoot? You will most likely not have to shoot because bad guys are easily defeated psychologically.

So what’s going to happen if you have to shoot? It is pretty rare, approximately 72,000 times a year, but as in most cases it ends in one shot, hit or miss, the bad guy is once again psychologically defeated. Now we come to a dilemma because it is very hard to get the bad guys to tell us that they quit because they were being shot at or they quit because it hurt and they died. Statistically again it works out to about 2 times out of every 1000 attempted crimes that an armed victim fires his gun. If he did it right, that ended it, but for many who have been in a gunfight they will assert emphatically it is not Hollywood and even shooting the BG 20 times may not make him stop. So here is the $10,000 question . . . how many times do you have to shoot the bad guy (imagine a giant Samoan totally out of his mind on meth, strong drug crazed out lunatic) to get him to stop his threat. The clearly appropriate answer is you shoot until the threat is over, and hope you brought enough ammunition with you to guarantee you don’t run out.

Once you realize you are going to have to draw your gun what should you be doing simultaneously? Assume the Wild West Wyatt Earp OK Corral stance and start blazing away or . . . move quickly off the line while at the same time deliver accurate fire to the upper chest of your assailant? I hope you chose the latter and I hope your practice includes this because in the end, when the SHTF, what you have practiced over and over is what you will do.

DSC00248 If your typical practice session is to stand motionless in front of the target then draw quickly from your exposed holster and place two nice rounds in the targets chest, then that is what you will do in the real life confrontation. If your holster is not exposed when that happens you will quite likely be fumbling to get it clear of your garments so perhaps you should be practicing with a cover garment. If you stand motionless the bad guy is going to shoot you or at least run you over like a freight train so move immediately away, preferably diagonally away and get behind something, anything. Little cover is better than no cover. A moving target is far harder to hit than a stationary target and a target moving diagonally away is even harder to hit. When you have distance and cover you can place better rounds on target.

Accurate rounds placed fast on target while simultaneously creating distance as a moving target can save your life. There is an acceptable level of accuracy required to be effective, it is always going to be a tradeoff between speed and accuracy. DSC00231Neither happens by accident, you have to pick a percentage of hits you demand of yourself and keep shooting faster and faster until you can accomplish both, moving and shooting. If you do not have a place to practice as you need to, go find one, and use it regularly. Do not accept the corner public range where you cannot draw from a holster from concealment, where you cannot move and shoot rapid fire because what you are committing to memory at that public range is exactly what you will do in the violent encounter. If you have a problem finding a place, contact me through our website and I will help.

And for my revolver loving friends realize you do not have enough ammunition to stop a determined adversary, and if you have extra ammo and have not practiced reloading until it is permanently etched into memory you will have an empty gun and a deranged madman rushing wildly at you.

Yes I know, many will say their favorite .357 will blow the guys head clean off or completely destroy the BGs heart . . . well I have news for you, it won’t and even if you are lucky enough to put a couple of those rounds in the BGs heart he still has a few seconds to rip your head off while you are trying to figure out where that one speed loader is.

Carrying a gun is much like wearing a seatbelt. We never go out in the morning, get in the car and decide we will not have a wreck today and choose to not buckle up because we know there are crazy people out there on the highways. And just like the seatbelt, if we go out there with our favorite carry gun that we only practice range shooting with once every couple of months, well we may as well leave it at home as it will be ineffective in the face of the determined adversary. Yes the odds are in your favor, that the BG will hike up his skirt and run in fear when you present your gun but . . the odds of having a car wreck tomorrow are about the same, try driving to work without your seatbelt on, it’s about the equivalent in short-sightedness.

Point, Reactive and Sighted Shooting

Different strokes for different situations. For most “range” shooters they stand motionless in a fixed position, using perfect sight alignment and working the trigger correctly. This is what we call sighted shooting; it is what most people are familiar with. And in certain situations even in a gunfight it is appropriate if you have time, distance and cover.  Generally it is the most accurate way to fire a handgun if you wish to put all of the bullets in the same hole, however in a gunfight you are most likely not going to have the luxury of time, distance and cover, thus at LFT we teach all three methods of shooting; Sighted, Reactive and Point.

The concept of point shooting has been around since the early 19th Century being first mentioned in print in Lieutenant Colonel Baron De Berenger’s 1835 book, “Helps And Hints – How To – Protect Life And Property”. More notable in name however Fairbairn, Sykes, and Applegate from the British OSS published in 1942 “Kill of Get Killed” made the concept of just pointing the gun without aiming more acceptable and since that time the debate has raged on its effectiveness in terms of defensive accuracy.

Quite a few years after WWII Col. Jeff Cooper expounded on the concept in 1958 in his first book “Fighting Handguns” and this really was the time the method gained wide acceptance in Law Enforcement and became a standard teaching technique with the FBI.

And for good reason, inside of 15’ most likely you will never have the chance to bring the gun to your face before you have to start delivering fire, and inside of that distance most competent shooters can place round after round rapid fire into an 8” circle on the chest of a silhouette target. Some are so good at this technique than can even deliver a significant percentage of those rounds at that distance while moving . . . KEY PHRASE, significant percentage.

Point shooting is an excellent technique for close quarters but once you get beyond hand to hand and are able to get the gun in front of your face you will be more accurate and faster if you employ Reactive Shooting.

Reactive Shooting is the concept of Bill Rogers, former FBI Agent, founder of Rogers Shooting School, inventor of the first Kydex holster and sold his holster company to Safariland Holster Company in 1985. It is based on the concept of minimal human reaction times, one reaction time being measured as 0.25 seconds. Unlike point shooting you see the gun, specifically you see the front sight so it is “somewhat” sighted shooting.

It is a very fast and accurate technique which if learned and practiced diligently can allow you to be the one walking away at the end of the fight. In essence you have to make the decision to fire before you bring the gun to the target while quickly acquiring the front sight and sight picture while pressing the trigger all at the same time. If you are using a double action gun such as a DASA or DA revolver you will actually be moving the hammer rearward while moving the gun towards the target. The skill is taught from three positions; the extended low ready, the retention ready and the holster. In our Advanced classes once a student has developed this skill they can engage the 8” target from the holster with two rounds at 15’ in under 1.5 seconds. It breaks down to getting the gun from the holster to the retention ready position in 0.5 seconds, extending to target and firing one shot in 0.75” and a follow up shot in 0.25 seconds or one reaction time.

Bill Rogers book, Be Fast, Be Accurate, Be The Best can be found on Amazon.

If you are local or visiting NorCal stop by our website and drop us an email to arrange a date to come out and shoot with us. While I seldom recommend any national level schools I do recommend two, Sig Academy and Rogers Shooting School, you will not be disappointed in either one.

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Training and practice . . how do you do it?

I’ve written before about training. The importance of learning what you need to do so you can go practice that skill. Part of the problem we see is that people do not really either have a place to practice OR they don’t know what or how to practice. And in this sense I am referring specifically to Concealed Carry.DSC00210

Recognizing this a few years ago we looked at how we practiced and thought why not offer it as a class for people with CCW Permits. It gives people who do not have that place to practice somewhere to go so they can shoot in near real life situation. It gives people structure to their practice so they can focus on the areas that need improvement. Finally it gives them tactics, how to get off the mark, move and shoot and think about what they are going to do next.

DSC00211Our Advanced CCW Class we call Skills, Drills and Scenarios is simply a series of routines that when committed to memory will allow us to function in a violent encounter in a manner that can save our lives and in a manner that we will not have to consciously think about what to do next.

We start slow with just presenting the gun from 7 yards and placing rounds from the holster into a 9″ target. After we are feeling pretty efficient at this we move on to being able to quickly reload and reengage a threat.DSC00212

So now it is time to test our level of accomplishment with a simple 19 round drill from 7 and 25 yards that will measure our speed, accuracy and test our understanding of the Fundamentals all using widely recognized standards.

We started off the day with simple exercises like learning how to present the gun quickly but now will move on to shooting both from extended low ready and from retention ready which of course leads into how to get the gun out fast, on target and fire multiple shots on the threat against a known standard.DSC00213

By this time we have loosened the cobwebs, calmed down a bit from shooting with a group on the line under time and accuracy pressures so let’s see how well we measure up using our LFT Drill. The 25 round drill is shot with a time limit from 25, 15, 10, 7, 5 and 3 yards. At each position there are requirements like shooting from the kneeling position, correcting misfires, emergency reloads, shooting while moving forward and back and shooting with one hand on both sides. The scoring is pretty simple, on the LFT – PH1 target there is a 9″ scoring ring center of mass and a 4″ scoring ring on the head. If your round is inside the scoring ring it is one point, on the line or outside is zero points. The LFT Drill is designed to stretch your abilities and it is not designed to swell your head with how great a shot you are, in fact it can be pretty humbling. Often when our shooters are asked beforehand what percent of hits they will get most say 75%, which is 19 rounds counting . . . in reality most start with less than 50%. Expert shooters should be able to score 80% to 90%. But do not be too discouraged, we will shoot this again before calling it a day to see how we have improved.DSC00218

Now it’s time to move on to rapid fire. I know it is a lot of fun but what do you really learn from it except that misses don’t count. So we do the Bill Drill a couple of times from the holster at 5 yards with the objective time of 3.5 seconds for six hits in the 9″ scoring circle. Again like most of these drills, it is not easy and most fail but they learn a ton about seeing their sights on target and working the trigger correctly.DSC00219

We are all getting a little warmed up so it’s time to do the Room Scenario. We do the same one each time because again this one is designed to have you perform effectively in all of the skills you have worked on during the morning. The shooter starts outside the room about 10 yards away from the target line, on the buzzer the student runs to the corner of the room turns right down the hall and engages a threat with three rounds while moving towards the doorway to the room. Once entering the room there are three threats three yards away that must be engaged with two rounds each and then you exit the room near the rear 10 yards away where you started. After leaving the room you make two left turns and proceed down the hall on the right side of the room while engaging another threat with three rounds. On your left will be another door to the room where you will enter and engage the same three threats as before with two rounds each. Your run is timed and your hits are counted. If you noticed, there were 18 rounds fired or more if you choose however making magazine changes in the open can be hazardous and facing three threats face to face and running empty can also shorten your life span. Tactics play an important role in how well you perform, thinking through your actions before you start can greatly improve your run . . . again, don’t get too down on yourself, we will run this again before we leave for the day.Room Drill

To lighten things up we have next a short version of a Steel Challenge. Each person takes one shot at a 8″ steel plate from 10 yards. Each person who makes that one hit moves on to the next round at 15 yards. This continues until only one shooter is left standing.DSC00220

So now we know who is shooting pretty well so it’s time for the gunfight. Two shooters line up at 15 yards, on the buzzer they draw; first round on steel is the winner and moves on. This is repeated until there is only one gunfight champion.

DSC00221We are now approaching 200 rounds for the day and will finish up our practice session with the Tueller Drill with each shooter timed for two rounds on target at 5 yards. As we have all had a pretty good day, everyone gets it done in UNDER 1.5 seconds . . . WTG Shooters! That is not an easy task.

Once more through the Room Scenario and one more try at the LFT Drill and we call it a day. It was nice to note that everyone participating this day improved on both of these the second time around.DSC00222

And my personal times/scores went into my shooting notebook, with notes about time, score and gun used so I can monitor my progress over time. We have completed a very effective and beneficial practice session in four hours, have fired over 250 rounds and have measured our skills in a series of tests that will stretch even the best competitive shooters.

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What is your practice regime?

There are a variety of ways to practice as well as the various type of shooting you are practicing. All are beneficial at least during the various stages of your progression.

There is practice of the Fundamentals of Marksmanship, usually done at a public range, standing motionless, shooting at a fixed target. This type of practice is more beneficial in the beginning for new shooters because you want to engrain in your memory the correct way to stand, grip, control the trigger, and align your sights, your sight picture and your follow through. It is called neural pathway programming, basically creating a memory in your mind of a physical action so you can perform this action on a more subconscious level. Regardless of the type of shooting you do, or your proficiency level you must always maintain good fundamentals which includes incorporating them into your practice regime, for it is a certainty, they are perishable skills.

If you have not tried this I always recommend it to people who do not have the fundamentals committed to memory. It is the Winchester/NRA Qualification Program, it is self-administered up to the last level AND it gives you focused practice without wasting ammunition just punching holes in paper while engraining BAD fundamentals.

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If you are a competitive shooter your practice sessions will include some fundamentals but you will begin to focus more on physical actions to allow you to score better in your chosen sport.

If you are a purely defensive shooter and your gun is intended to be used to save your life or the life of an innocent person then your practice session is entirely different . . . or at least it should be because the use and need of the gun is ENTIRELY different than the previously mentioned practices.

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When I practice I will normally work on a couple of skills, maybe as simple as getting the gun in the correct position before I extend towards target, or perhaps just working on shooting through the sights quickly.

After I have warmed up if you will, by shooting a bit while working on my skills I will begin to run a couple of drills. I do the same ones every time because I am interested in how I am doing over time. We all have good days and not so good days but you cannot use one days shooting as an indication of long term change in your shooting ability.

Drills are intended to challenge your ability, to measure how you stand relative to prior performance or relative to another group of shooters. I have a list of about 300 drills but have narrowed that down to just two that I like to run each time I have a practice session. I guess when I get to where I run those perfectly every time I will have to find others to challenge myself.

This first one is pretty simple, I place a paper plate over the appropriate area of a silhouette target, rounds inside the margin count as one point, rounds on the edge or are out do not. If you exceed the allotted time, the rounds do not count.

For Advanced Students the Standards are:
Seven Yards – draw and fire one shot on Plates in 1.75 seconds.
Seven Yards – drawn and fire one shot, do a slide-lock reload and fire a shot on Plates in 3.5 seconds.
Seven Yards – draw and fire six rounds on Plates in 3.5 seconds.
25 Yards – 10 shots slow fire inside 9” paper plate, hits must be inside the edge.

Keep in mind that not everyone will shoot a perfect score and you should develop your on acceptable level of efficiency, say 75% for starters. Once you have attained that level raise it and keep pushing yourself to shoot faster and more accurately. Only you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

Finally I end up with a scenario, basically a pretend gunfight, timed and scored. I usually do the same one once a month, again to just monitor my progress . . . am I improving, holding or declining.

Running a scenario

Owning a gun does not make you a shooter, going to the range and practicing crap makes you a crap master. Get some training and then practice until you are good at what you trained to do . . . then get some more training and practice more . . . I am certain you do not walk through life wanting to be just average.

“Training is great but training only teaches you what to practice. If you don’t practice, guess what? You’re never going to be very good!” – Ken Hackathorn

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What Kind of Gun Should I Get?

This is a question we hear on an almost daily basis and my standard answer is that depends, what are you going to use it for.

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From a purely defensive mindset I can think of three or four separate purposes and surprisingly enough your skill level is self-defense has a lot to do with which gun works best for each individual purpose. The answer we hear most is home defense. Unlike many people we DO NOT recommend a small, untrained woman by a Remington 870 in 12 gauge because we do not subscribe to various wild theories 1) that you don’t have to aim it, 2) that the sound of the slide racking will frighten everyone away, 3) that it won’t hit your neighbors house, or 4) that it is the most devastating wound (please note you have to hit what you are shooting at to have a devastating wound). If you don’t regularly practice with a gun, it is not the gun to use in a violent encounter, so first is, the gun must be fun to shoot.

BruiseIn home defense our standard recommendation for a beginning shooter is a full size semi-automatic from a manufacturer with a known history of zero failures, in a caliber with a proven history of stopping bad guys. We will save the obvious questions on that statement for another blog. We also assume the shooter is a student or will be so their ability to handle correctly is assumed.

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As the shooter progresses in their training and practice at some point the recommended handgun will not be the best gun for home defense because after all, it isn’t . . . drum roll please . . . IMG_0786[1]

the best gun for home defense would be a semi-automatic carbine loaded with .223/5.56 ballistic tip ammunition. Now I can already hear the howling of the “experts” who do not teach for a living but the fact is there, a 5.56 has the best rate of fire, has the best wound cavity, can be shot very fast and accurately and  . . . DOES NOT OVER PENETRATE, thus the purpose of the blog.

The wound 4212772879_b76e88aa47_ocavity of this round makes about a 3” to 4” diameter pile of hamburger shortly after entering the body and generally if anything leaves the body it has no mass and is therefore much less lethal. If your predator requires physiological damage to cease the threat, this is a good way to do it.

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Considering the high velocity of this round when it penetrates drywall the bullet essentially comes apart as compared to ALL others thus greatly reducing the risk of someone in the next room receiving a lethal injury.

 

Your thoughts?

 

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