Firearm

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Its been vigorously reported that an extraordinary number of Americans are now buying their first handguns. Interestingly, many of those buyers are over 50 and a good number over 65. Much of the correspondence I receive comes from older shooters with questions about sighting with vision defects. Here’s some suggestions concerning imperfect vision and marksmanship:

Be aware of lighting. Indoor range lighting is dramatically different from natural light. You can test this by trying to read small print indoors and then trying the same after stepping into direct sunlight. If you must shoot indoors consider light-colored, reduced reflection, shooting glasses which will magnify light and reduce glare. Continue reading

There is very little that is intuitive about successfully shooting a handgun. The same thing applies to good driving, splitting firewood, cooking a pot roast, or any other human endeavor. We all understand that education is required to master a skill but for various reasons many of us believe that shooting is like being left-handed, some are born with it and others are not. I suppose this comes from the informality which imbues marksmanship and guns in general. In the 19th century it was not uncommon for homegrown medicine salesmen to refer to themselves as “Doctor.” Today, every guy who has shot a gun twice is “Instructor.” Consequently, we too often rely on myths, old wives’ tales, and pop culture to form theories about shooting.

If you’re struggling with mastering your handgun take control of your training in the following manner:

  1. Start over. Accept that you may believe things which are incorrect. Receive formal instruction in handgun operations; I am referring to basic operations not marksmanship. Many shooters, cannot load a semi-automatic pistol while keeping the muzzle pointed downrange. Muzzle control in marksmanship is the next step after muzzle control for safety.
  2. Learn the fundamentals of marksmanship from someone qualified to teach them. I’m sorry to offend, I know there are many good independent instructors out there but I also know you probably haven’t found one. An NRA instructor course is worthwhile but it does not qualify a shooter to teach. Being a lead instructor requires having spent a lot of time coaching on the firing line in order to understand why shooters miss their intended targets. Being a good shot doesn’t mean one can teach. The instructor has to see errors repeated in many different shooters to understand how corrective action can be applied by a particular shooter. It took me years.
  3. Record every shot and analyze your results. A right-handed shooter tends to shoot low left for a very specific reason. If you know that reason you can correct the error, and panic and hopelessness disappear.
  4. Be patient. I am certain that no one expects to fly a plane through a storm the first hour of flight school. Marksmanship is a skill that you can learn and apply as you learn.

My first visit to a gun range was as a teenager. I took my father’s revolver and went as the guest of a range member. I was told by a well-intentioned shooter (who was kind enough to let me shoot his 1911 pistol) that “maybe the .45 isn’t your gun,” and the local gun nut insulted me for not being able to hit a bullseye with my dad’s Colt Python. I learned to shoot the .45 pistol (and handguns in general) because the U.S. Marine Corps knew how to teach. Leaving your shooting education in the hands of unqualified instructors will succeed only in making you give up shooting. For more, read my book, The Perfect Pistol Shot.

Yesterday, the president announced another plan to prevent gun violence. Of course, as with every other gun scheme the focus was not on the offenders. Notice no one ever suggests lessening armed robberies by outlawing convenience stores or banks. Some will argue that the president’s plan does address potential offenders by “keeping guns from those with mental health problems.” Sure, provided they’re in a magic mental health database which is only accessed by reasonable and detached psychologists and psychiatrists, and not the local NGO nut with a mental health worker certificate from a community college. The problem is that the right to keep and bear arms is primarily for defense against tyranny. Now we must trust the tyrant to be fair when deciding who may possess a gun. Lunatics should not have firearms but I fear we are not speaking of those who have been legally determined incompetent through a medical/legal process. Every child custody dispute, VA treatment for PTSD (a disorder the military almost promotes amongst veterans), or restraining order (a process often with little judicial scrutiny) will create a whole new class of “crazies” everyday. A database depends on the integrity and restraint of those who determine the entrants. Do you think discretion and care of the rights of the governed are going to be the primary concerns of whatever agency oversees the magic database? As a former peace officer I assure it doesn’t work that way. Continue reading

There is a popular complaint going around about police touching their weapons or drawing their weapons during routine traffic stops. For private defenders, this discussion is worth having because drawing the gun irrevocably alters confrontations. It is being suggested that cops are too eager to touch sidearms when confronting “unarmed” citizens.  Every case is different but here are some things to consider: Continue reading

Most shots go low and to the inside due to over-gripping the handgun. Most right-handers shoot low, left, and most left-handers shoot low and right. Some shooters defy statistics and shoot straight across to the strong side, meaning a R/H will throw shots to 3 o’clock and a L/H will strike at 9 o’clock. If you have read The Perfect Pistol Shot (you are an intelligent and discerning reader) you know that errors can overlap and even reverse bullet placement. The fundamentals are after all, the fundamentals and need to be sorted out like a puzzle. Having said that, there is a an error that will pitch rounds straight to the strong side. It tends to come from recoil sensitivity: Continue reading

We miss because we don’t properly sight. Sighting is everything in marksmanship. You may talk about grip and stance until your lips fall off but you will not shoot any better if sighting is not your marksmanship priority. Proper sighting controls grip, stance, breathing, and even the effect of wind on the body because fanatical sighting allows the shooter to see errors before they occur. Good grip can be practiced while wearing a blindfold which means it cannot be the primary source of accuracy. Proper grip is extraordinarily important. Bedrock stuff. Even so, grip is nowhere near as important as proper sighting skills. You may say, “we’ve heard all this before.” And there’s part of the training problem. Continue reading

When I was a kid, gun people would describe the .45 ACP as having a kick “like a mule.” That myth probably arose from WWII and Viet Nam era basic military training wherein recruits may have had a few rounds of familiarization fire rather than a full pistol training and qualification. Instructors, desiring not to be shot would order the recruit to squeeze the grip as hard as possible. The results were the myth of a hard kicking pistol. Today, the 1911 .45 is everywhere and known for gentle recoil with standard ammunition. The point is, attitudes and expectations about recoil can be self-fulfilling or at least self-deceptive. Continue reading

1. Magazines are always placed downward into the pouch with the rounds pointed away from the support side. This allows the shooter to  grab the magazine, twist the wrist, and have the magazine and magazine well pointed in the same direction.

2. Magazine pouches are placed on the support side and speed-loader pouches are always placed on the strong side (same side as the holster). These positions allow for use when prone without excessive body movement and at all other times allow the loading hand to drop directly onto the pouch. Continue reading

Since I started this blog, I have found the biggest problem to be the lack of on-going material. Marksmanship is done, settled, proven, and anything I might add would be superfluous. I wish it were otherwise. My first book, “The Perfect Pistol Shot” was my best effort at writing about the fundamentals of marksmanship. When I finished the manuscript I realized that I had not written everything I knew on the subject but had captured about 97% of it. Perhaps I’ll revise the book one day but I can never write another marksmanship book because the subject won’t support it. We know all that we are going to know about the fundamental principles behind deliberate shooter accuracy. Unfortunately, the “we” doesn’t extend to the overwhelming majority of shooting enthusiasts who have joined us over the last twenty years. For example, the matter of grip continues to baffle the shooting population. This blog was recently disparaged because I have steadfastly held that a light grip is necessary for best accuracy. I’ve tried many times to explain this principle in terms of energy and movement: If a human grasps an object with more pressure than is necessary to hold that object, the lighter of the two (human or object) will move to disperse energy. If you grab the corner of the Empire State Building and try to lift it, you will shake but the building won’t move. If you pick up a gun and grip beyond what is necessary to hold the gun in your hand, the gun will shake (and your hand, too). That’s not debatable, and yet, it’s tortuously argued in well-established manufacturer’s gun blogs. I now accept that I’m idiot and this my first rodeo and I’m making it all up as I go, but I request  the reader humor me in my new-fangled, five hundred year old marksmanship theory and simply test it–right now: Continue reading

New York Police Department and the FBI have done a good job of keeping statistical records concerning police shootings. In fact, compared to NYPD, the FBI is a little light on data. New York has been tracking shootings for more than a century.  The point is we know that for good or for ill, four rounds pretty much wraps it up.
Bear in mind that most shootings occur within 6′ or less, so it makes sense  that  the ammunition expenditure would not be all that great. Continue reading

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