Tempest In A Red Dot.

Red dot sights will get you killed on the street“.

Nuh-uh“.

Uh-Huh, they totes will get you killed“.

Nah, bro, they’re bomb.”

Enough.

Disclaimer: I’ve trained with Suarez and I’ve trained with Pincus, so I am familiar with two of the people on opposite sides of this debate. I’m also about 1/100th as qualified to talk to about this subject as the guys I mentioned in the above paragraph, so take what I’m about to say with a salt lick or two.

However, I was a crash-test dummy for this episode of Shooting Gallery on red dot guns, and I’m open to the idea that technology can improve our shooting, mainly because advances in technology have improved our shooting ever since we swapped out handgonnes for matchlocks.

The fact is, a red dot is very, very useful on a defensive handgun, for certain situations. I had a completely open mind when I trained with Gabe: My only experience with red dots on pistols was the el cheapo sight on my Smith and Wesson .22, and I was truly curious to see how they worked on a defensive pistol because they seemed to work pretty darn well on all the Open guns I’d see at a match.

At the beginning of Alf and I’s training with Gabe, both of us were chasing the dot at close ranges rather than focusing on our iron sights. Once we realized that the dot was there to augment, not replace, the iron sights on our guns, we settled down, and our groups tightened significantly.

Is a red dot applicable to every shooting situation? No, but guess what, your iron sights aren’t applicable in every situation, either. A red dot really shines (pun intended) when the distance needed to make the shot gets beyond 25 yards. Sight picture is crucial at those distances, and a red dot makes those shots so easy, even a moron like myself can make them. Is it a good thing to know you can make a 50 yard shot on-demand with your carry pistol? I’d say so.

Are red dots an essential must-have tool in your toolbox? No. Are they the future of handguns? Maybe. Are they more beneficial to the average schmo than $1500 worth of ammo and quality firearms training? Probably not. There is a definite niche for the red dot, though, and it’s a niche that will only get bigger as time marches on.

After Action Report: Bob Vogel World Class Pistol Skills

The basics: The two day class was held at Altair Gun Club, a private range about 45 minutes east of Naples. The class was nine guys, all older, split about 1/3 each “gamers”, 1/3 professionals (LEO or private security and 1/3 casual tactical learners. All of the students had a lot of previous gun skool, none had any “gamer” classes”.

I was pleased that Bob’s shooting philosophy is similar to mine: Shooting is shooting. Delivering the shot on-time and on-target is the same for tactical as it is competition. The point is to be as fast and accurate as possible in any situation. As for tactics, as Bob says, “Speed is a huge tactic”.
Gear-wise, there were five Glocks, two M&P’s, a Grand Power and me with my CZ’s (Yes, plural. More on that later.). As Bob shoots a Glock and the majority of students in the class shot Glocks, there was at least an half hour’s discussion devoted on how to make a Glock run as fast and accurately as a CZ.

You can’t. Game over. 😀

One thing I did appreciate was looking down the sights of Bob’s competition Glock 34. His sights are a LOT wider-spaced than mine: The rear sight groove is bigger, and the front sight is a mere slip with a small fiber dot. I really liked that idea, as it fits in with the faults I’m finding with my competition guns.

The technique training was solid. As Bob says, “Almost anyone can hold a gun on-target at 25 yds. The trick is keeping it on-target as they pull the trigger”. This dovetails nicely with what I learned from Rob Leatham, so there’s something to be pursued further in my dry-fire along those lines. Bob also believes that “The less the gun moves, the better you shoot”, and that’s what his draw, movement on a stage and grip are based around. He grips the gun with the support hand further out towards the muzzle than most people do with the modern isosceles, and he emphasizes using the meaty part of your thumb on both hands, just below the last knuckle, for controlling the gun movement. He also cants his wrists slightly downwards, allowing for the support hand to grab the gun further out of the frame. That grip, he believes, allows you to get your hands closer to the muzzle and therefore closer to where the recoil is happening.

Also, he believes that people should “pinch” the gun in the holster with the middle finger and thumb versus grabbing it with all three fingers. Pinching relates to a higher grip on the gun and a faster draw, as the complete grip assembles itself as the gun is on it’s way towards the target. Straight left wrist  = low hand on gun, cant wrist down. A strong support hand is an essential part of his grip, because the strong hand has to grip the gun and pull the trigger, and the support hand jus grips the gun, so it’s essential for control during the trigger press. If you notice on the video I posted yesterday, his hands are pressing slightly inwards on each other. Torquing them inward like that creates pressure downwards and from side to side, which helps eliminate side to side motion. This also helps press the gun up and right, which works against trigger jerk that tends to push the gun down and to the left.

Another element of recoil control he teaches is grip strength. Bob is a big proponent of the Captains of Crush grip stregtheners, as they helped him, and I’m getting one sent my way to try it out.

To be honest, that was takeaway #1: The physical reality of being a truly great shooter. I got to see Angus Hobdell, Tarn Butler and Rob Leatham shoot many, many times, and no one would ever accuse them of them of being “svelte”. They’re big guys, but they all can move very quickly and explode out of the shooting box when needed. Watching Bob spring from a dead standstill to 6 feet ahead at the drop of a hat was enlightening.

Takeaway #2 was the Bill Drill. To be honest, I had not practiced this drill a lot, but now I see it’s usefulness in finding what you’re doing consistently wrong. If you have an occasional problem with trigger jerk, it WILL show up when you shoot six shots in a row multiple times.

Takeaway #3 was the importance of dry-fire, and practicing measurable things while dry-firing. To be honest, I’d been dry-firing wrong. Having a double-action gun means I can pull the trigger on each target I point my (empty) gun at, but that doesn’t mean I should pull the double-action trigger every time I need it. I’m switching to a true DA/SA trigger practice from now on. True, I won’t have the hammer fall with each shot, but it will be more like the way my gun actually works and allow me to see issues with trigger press and gun movement.

Win – win – win.

Here’s a video of me working my way (slowly) through some of the drills in the class.

This is not a class for everyone; If you’re new to shooting world or haven’t taken a beginning pistol class, take those first ,and shoot a few matches as well. However if you’re ready (as I am) to get really, really good at shooting a pistol under the artificial stress of the range and a timer, this is a great class to help take you to the next level.

And because this was Florida, we had an alligator show up for some free training. He kept to himself, but I wasn’t going to be the one to tell him he needed to wear eye and ear protection while he was watching us shoot.

gator

Pocket Dump

I’ve been pocket-carrying my KelTec P3AT a lot recently, and decided to get some practice with it. I shot the Step By Step Gun Training “Shoot And Scoot” event last week, and I was reminded how much I hate shooting it. The trigger bite on it, especially with the Crimson Trace laser on it, is nasty and makes shooting more than a dozen rounds an exercise in pain.

Ever shot a Tokarev? It’s a lot like that.

So now I’m looking around. I’m thinking LCP, Bodyguard or P238, or maybe even breaking the model and going with an LCR, maybe even in .22 Magnum. In the mean time, I’m going back to pocket-carrying the Sccy. The new version is a LOT better than the one I purchased many years ago, and it fits into the pocket of my khakis, plus it give me 10+1 of 9mm versus 7+1 of .380.

I’ll take it.

The Middle Child

Tam’s work with the P250 is showing that a locked-breech, subcompact .380 is a great choice for people who can’t handle the recoil and slide manipulation of a 9mm. When I worked behind the counter, I’d recommend the very-similar Ruger LC-380 and the not-so-similar KelTec PMR-30 to people who didn’t think they were up to using a 9mm effectively (and there were a LOT of them here in the well-upholstered corner of Heaven’s Waiting Room).

Which got me thinking: There’s good defensive .380ACP ammunition out there that comes close to the FBI standard of 12″ of penetration through gel and four layers of denim, so I’m quite comfortable carrying a .380 on a regular basis, but a little more oomph would always be nicer.

So why doesn’t someone make a locked-breech, striker-fired compact (or subcompact pistol) that has a little more power than .380 and yet is more controllable than 9mm?

Something in 9×18 Makarov, perhaps?

There’s a wide range of inexpensive ammunition out there for that caliber, and some rather respectable self-defense loads as well. The Makarov round has less pressure and less velocity than 9mm, and yet we still think of 9×18 = blowback action, not locked breech.

Look, if we can make a semi-auto gun in a wheelgun caliber like .357 Magnum, we can make a locked-breech gun in a blowback caliber like 9×18 and sell the crap out it to the people with physical limitations that make their need for armed self-defense more urgently than the rest of us.

Ok, Kel-Tec, you’re not afraid to break the rules, let’s make this happen.

Alright, CZ, Let’s Get With The Program

The Evo 3 Scorpion was/is a runaway hit, thanks in no small part to leveraging the cool factor that Colion Noir brings with him, and the P07/P09 is rapidly becoming the gun of choice for the new “Carry Optics” class in USPSA. You’re better than you were two years ago, but you still need help. Aside from the new Tac Sport, your new pistols at SHOT this year seem a little… whelming.

Let’s face it, your options for concealed carry suck. Yes, there is the new Omega Man Trigger version of the P01, but we’re still talking about a gun that’s heavier and thicker than similar polymer striker fired guns, and when it comes to concealed carry, heavy and thick are not good. Polymer, striker-fired mini 9mm’s (Glock 19 and smaller) have been the new hotness for at least the past three years, and in response, you come out with… a gun that’s even BIGGER than the P07.

Uh huh.

What’s one thing that all these sub-combact, single-stack (ish) mini 9mm’s have in common? They’re all striker-fired. One may argue (and I have) that striker-fired guns are great for beginners, but all the XD-‘s and 43’s and Shields and whatever are starting to run together. You know what’s not offered in a small, slim, 8 round (or so) capacity pistol? A traditional single-action/double-action trigger.

In a world where a seven pound pull and a break not unlike a staple gun is considered great and long ten-pound DAO triggers are not unheard of, a polymer gun with a nine-pound first pull / five pound second would become a shooter’s best friend. Team that up with a spring system that allows for easy slide manipulation and the ergonomics you’re already known for, CZ, and you’d take over the market.

The pieces are there with the Rami-P and the Omega Trigger. Now make it happen. And send me a T&E when you do.

The Biggest Failure in CCW Is…

… getting people to actually carry their guns after they’ve qualified for their permit.

Let’s face it, it’s an unnatural act to carry around the weight of a full soda can (or more) on your hip. People complain about the weight of their cellphones (get off my lawn); imagine how they’d feel about carrying a full-size 1911.

A big part of why people fail to carry their guns is mindset: They think they’ll carry a gun “only when they might need it”. This is, of course, insane, but that’s a fight we’ve been fighting for years, and we’ll keep fighting that fight far in the future.

But for those of us who do carry on a day-in, day-out basis, we forget just how WEIRD it felt carrying a gun around the first time, and we need to come up with better ways to ease people into carrying on a regular basis.

Part of the problem lies, I believe. with how CCW instructors are licensed. Most, if not all, states require NRA Instructor Certification to be a CCW teacher. That’s fine until you realize the NRA curriculum for concealed carry kinda… sucks. Also, most indoor and outdoor ranges don’t allow drawing from a holster, which limits practice opportunities. People aren’t used to carrying around a loaded handgun on their hips because there is nothing in-place for them to get used to such a thing before, during or after they get their CCW: There really isn’t an on-ramp in-between a booth at an indoor range or a stall at an outdoor range and carrying your gun every day, and that needs to change.

A solution might lie in how the class is carried out. I’ve sat in a bunch of CCW classes from a variety of trainers, and typically, you get your class time, you shoot your qualifier (if needed), you receive your Microsoft Word Template certificate of training, and you go home. Do you, at any time, actually put a gun in a holster? Nope. That part is talked about, but never actually done, in-class. The physical reality of carrying a gun is as much a part of a CCW class as the physical reality of cooking is to someone watching a re-run of “Good Eats“. I’m not really sure what the full solution to this might look like (yet), but there has to be someway of integrating not just the theory of CCW into a class, but the reality as well.

If we want a nation of safe, responsible armed citizens (and we do), then we need to make certain that the citizenry is, you know, ARMED. The more we can do to get people’s guns out from under their beds on to their hips, the safer we’ll be.

The Third Wave

I swear I didn’t write this to be click-bait, but it’s gotten a lot of play around the InterTubes over the weekend, and quite frankly, it’s a little humbling to have people who I’ve respected and admired consider my rantings worthy of discussion.

I think part of the reason why that article sparked such a discussion is that we are entering a new era of firearms training for armed civilians*. If the first wave was the cop you knew teaching you how to shoot a snubbie .38 or a having a shotgun in the closet, then the second wave was Gunsite and the boom in “Shall Issue” permits that started here in Florida and spread across the country.

I think we’re in the beginning stages of a Third Wave, where it’s not just enthusiasts who carry a gun, it’s everyone. The metaphor I’ve been using for a while now is cameras and my past life as a advertising photographer, but I don’t think that’s quite right. A better metaphor, I believe, is personal computers before the IBM PC came along.

My family bought a computer when I was a teenager. Today, that seems like a no-brainer, but in 1980, it was revolutionary. We bought one so my Mom could do contract book-keeping work for small businesses as a side job, but I quickly used it to learn BASIC and play games. Well, mostly play games, if I’m honest.

We bought a Commodore CBM. Was it the best computer out there at the time? Nope. We didn’t buy it because it was the best, we bought it because the salesperson at the store understood my Mom’s needs were NOT the needs of a hobbyist like himself, rather, they were the needs of a small business owner. The hobbyists at the store that sold Apple ][‘s thought my Mom was interested in technical aspects of the computers they sold, but in reality, what she was interested in was what the computer could DO for her.

Making a connection yet?

We’re seeing a proliferation of brands this year, especially in the mini-9mm market, that reminds me of how everyone and his dog came out with a CP/M machine in the early 1980’s (and PC-Compatibles after that). The customer base was growing by leaps and bounds because people thought they HAD to have a computer in the home to, umn, keep track of recipes, or something. Computers in the home started out very small, and it took a decade (and the Internet) for them to stop being a hobbyist’s tool and become an indispensable part of our home life.

Firearms trainers are hobbyists. Our sports are niche sports (at best) and although the NRA is a fearsome political machine and there are many, many concealed carry permit holders out there, the people who do firearms training are, for the most part hobbyists, and we tend to preach to the choir.

So the choice is ours: Do we want to make something that meets the needs of the public, becomes part of their lifestyle and changes the world, or will we create something that is initially popular but soon retreats to a small market niche?

Choose carefully.

*Note: For the purposes of this post, “civilian” = “Someone who carries a gun and isn’t employed by a government agency”. We can have the “Law enforcement are civilians too!” discussion at another time.