A couple night ago, Fox News Channel’s Megan Kelly (cute as a bug) told her audience that at least one of the San Bernardino murderers engaged in “dry-fire.” Kelly explained that experts said dry-fire was shooting a gun without bullets in order to “train the mind to kill.” Dry-fire is indeed the practice of pressing the trigger on an empty weapon while sighting on a target. This practice is wide spread and well established within competitive and traditional military shooting. Olympic shooters and local target enthusiasts engage in dry-fire because it allows the shooter to more easily spot flaws because there is no disruptive discharge and recoil. Wherever the front sight is when the firearm goes “click” is where the shot would have gone. I do not expect any news organization to have an army of fact checkers nearby with expertise in all areas but this error is one that could have been caught with a 30 second internet search. We must remember Bill O’ Reilly thinks fully automatic rifles are on sale at gun shows for instant purchase (despite being corrected on-air) and MSNBC commentators want police to “shoot to wound,” like Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. Continue reading
This afternoon an old friend of mine, who I knew to be an excellent shot in the Marine Corps, told me he had problems with sighting now that he wore glasses. I think that is a common complaint. The goal is a crystal clear front sight with a blurred rear sight and target for marksmanship. If you can’t do that with your eye glasses, try a couple pairs of reading glasses at different magnifications. You can buy them in drug stores or dollar stores. You may otherwise need a “shooter’s prescription” for eye glasses . I have noticed that an adjustment period with any type of glasses helps with sighting. Tell your eye doctor what you need to accomplish. Be patient, a lot of shooters with bad eye sight Continue reading
It is not uncommon for people with guns to peek around doorways into dark rooms. There is a problem with that, of course, because the “peeker” is illuminated by the hallway or room he may be standing in. If you can’t turn the other guy’s room light on, at least turn yours off. If the darkness is equal but there is some ambient light, you will be able to see as well as the criminal and not have to give yourself away with a flashlight. Always use the Continue reading
When aiming your handgun all points of your body should face in the same direction. In the bladed stance your body should be some degrees off from the line of your pistol sights. In the natural shooting position, all body points will mirror the sight-line. Either position requires that all body points agree in direction. Body points are feet, knees, hips, shoulders, and head. Check to see if you twist your body while in your firing stance. Muscular tension is a physical force against perfect sighting. Check yourself in front Continue reading
Some years ago I taught handgun operations to federal security contractors working for the DEA. That agency insisted on contractors carrying the magnificent HK USP pistol. The USP is a wonderful firearm but it is too large to be the sole issued handgun for a force that includes smaller men, and women. The U.S. Army learned that lesson after adopting the large-framed Beretta 92F. A Sig Sauer was offered as an alternative for military law enforcement shooters with smaller hands. The perfect handgun is a bad choice when it doesn’t fit its shooter’s hand. Here’s a few things to look for in checking the fit of your handgun:
Placing the backstrap of your hand squarely in the web between your thumb and forefinger (don’t slide your hand, you will alter grip and recoil management), are you able to place the first joint of the trigger-finger on the trigger of your revolver? Can you place the pad of your trigger-finger on the trigger of your pistol? Can you dry fire your weapon without moving your finger or hand? The finger is weaker when stretched than when naturally extended. Too large a handgun can cause poor and even unsafe trigger control. Some shooters may notice the trigger-finger “bunches-up” and the trigger press forces the finger to point into the trigger. In that case, the weapon is too small.
Another test is for the pistol is the ability to lock the slide in the rearward position Continue reading
The trigger is not a light switch, it is a mechanical lever. This mechanical lever is not rigidly affixed to the handgun.
Make a completely safe weapon and pinch the width of the trigger with your thumb and forefinger.
You will notice the trigger can be moved side-to-side. Why does that matter to the marksman? If the trigger is not deliberately brought to the rear in straight rearward movement, the shooter will negatively influence sight alignment during trigger press. Dry fire is the easy cure for a wandering trigger press.
Lesson: Gently pressing the trigger is not enough Continue reading
Before I mention a couple more cheap tricks to improve your handgun, let me clarify the last batch:
Smudging the front sight tip: Traditional rifle ranges may have smudge pots available to you. These used to be very popular and the Marine Corps still uses them. They usually burn kerosene through a thick fibrous wick that gives off a low level of black smoke. A shooter holds the rifle sight over the “pot” until the sight is black. Too much smudge can actually thicken the sight post. The goal is only to prevent light reflection. You can make one with a small piece of cloth lightly coated with kerosene and placed inside a can, or a small coal fire. Magic markers create shine and flat paint is hard to remove. Be careful.
Fouling the barrel: You should keep a clean weapon, properly oiled. However, accuracy in firearms is often improved as rounds are fired. If you want the best accuracy from your handgun, try firing groups at the end of your range session when your barrel is dirty. When I was a counter-sniper the thinking was rifle barrels had to be perfectly clean for that first shot. Today, even military snipers are realizing the benefit of a dirty barrel. As a Marine marksmanship instructor I saw great improvements in M-16 groups as barrels became dirty and “tighter.” I am not suggesting that you should not clean your weapon. However, if you want to improve your accuracy that fraction of an inch, try a mildly fouled barrel — then clean it.
Here’s a couple more tricks:
- For long distance shooting mark your front sight with two or three evenly-spaced horizontal lines (a thread tipped in nail polish works fine as a snap-line.) Use the lines as front sight tips and points of reference when firing beyond 100 yards. This will allow you to learn where to hold and to be consistent at more than two hundred yards (handgun, ammunition, and shooter permitting.)
- Reloaded and light brass has an advantage in a revolver. When doing a tactical reload and trying to save your unfired rounds, simply turn the revolver upward and the the heavier, un-expanded rounds will drop into your support hand. Striking the yoke (the plunger) will eject the fired brass. This technique allows you to reload a partially-full cylinder without throwing good rounds on the ground or collecting spent brass, which can be dangerous when reloading under stress. The goal here is to put the unfired rounds in your pocket, the spent brass on the ground, and charge the cylinder with a fresh reloader, saving those unfired, loose Continue reading
I realize that advocating nothing but training to firearms fans makes me the fat kid at the dance. So let’s compromise and combine an emphasis on training with some cheap improvements to make your handgun more “shootable.”
- If you are getting glare on your front sight tip, blacken the tip using smoke from an oily flame. A drop or two of coal or kerosene will work fine. You want the oily smoke not the fire. You will achieve a beautiful flat black front sight tip that is easy to see even in bright sunlight. It wipes away when you’re finished.
- If your grips get slippery as your hand perspires: Go to the dollar-store and get a roll of medical tape. Make one tight wrap around your grips. It’ll come off and the grips can be cleaned. If you decide to keep using tape, you will have to change it periodically as it can become slick with body oil and dirt but it’s cheaper than a new set of grips and very comfortable.
- One drop of oil on the machined (sliding) surfaces of your pistol. Many shooters suffer stoppages from not oiling the surfaces that slide against each other and cause friction. Don’t over-oil and never pour oil into your barrel.
- Buy a bag of cheap reloads at your local range and shoot four bucks worth. The fouling inside your barrel will actually tighten your groups.
Dry fire with regimented purpose, which costs you Continue reading
The Perfect Pistol Shot has been available for over a year. I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as sales numbers. There is greater interest in the use and ownership of firearms than at anytime in the past, and I’m not just referring to the United States. Like everything else, marksmanship as a study — as work, has not been popular for some time. The material that does sell well tends to emphasize Hollywood poses, “secret” military techniques, and close range shooting without measurable standards. I get the appeal but the desire for convenience doesn’t change what is required to be a consistently accurate shot under a variety of conditions. So, I figured my book would have some limited interest for a short period of time. Fortunately, as with many other things, I was wrong. The Perfect Pistol Shot has slowly and steadily sold well in both paperback and Kindle formats. About a week ago, it bumped into the top ten. Readers have been my primary source of advertising, and I Continue reading
Most shooters eventually consider some manner of equipment upgrade to improve accuracy or speed. Popular options include grips, trigger jobs, sights, and of course, a new handgun. There are some factory grips that can get slick with shooter perspiration, and some service-type handguns have rough triggers. Smaller weapons may not have good, clear sights. However, generally speaking, most modern handguns are okay. Take the cash equivalent of the upgrade that you’re planning and treat yourself to some practice ammo. Training trumps Continue reading