There is a Story afoot . . .

A story has attacked me . . . not sure where it's from, but I have been posting chapters as they come out of my fingers. Yes, I am still posting on firearms training and my new topic of basic prepping - all links are to the right of the blog, newest posts first on the lists. Feel free to ignore the story posts - they usually start with a chapter number. But, feel free to read the story as well and comment on it - I like how it's turning out so far! Links to the various chapters are at the right under . . .

The Story


Monday, November 11, 2019

Commentary – The Guns Went Silent

“the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month” . . . the “Guns Went Silent” . . .

Throughout my life the first half of this phrase is what folks have always associated with Armistice Day.  That day when WWI – the “war to end all wars” – ended.  

In 1926 the date became recognized as “Armistice Day”.  In 1938 it became a national holiday.  And it 1954 it gained its current name – “Veterans Day”.  A day set aside to honor all veterans.  It was so proclaimed in the “Veterans Day Proclamation” 

Rather than the date/time of the end of hostilities, rather than “the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month”, I would like to focus on the phrase – “The Guns Went Silent”.  The guns had raged in Europe for 4 years.  30 Million dead.  An estimated 35 THOUSAND MILES of trenches scared the landscape.  New methods of death had been developed and used – from mustard and phosgene gases to aircraft dropping bombs . . . machine guns, tanks, long range artillery . . . not to mention nature's toll from the trenches – flu, infection, dysentery, pneumonia.

And suddenly . . . in an instant . . . “the guns went silent”.  After 4 years you could hear the wind, the birds, a clock . . . and not the guns.  What would that have sounded like?  Thanks to the technology of 1918 and the technology of 2018 . . . we have some idea.

Here is a link to the project “Making a New World:  Armistice Soundwave” that describes how the data for the recording was gathered.   Note that it was technology to gather data to kill the guns . . .

And THIS, THIS RIGHT HERE is what it actually sounded like . . . amazing.  

I can’t imagine the relief given the horror those on the front experienced on a daily basis.  

That said, this is but a moment in time of a nearly 250 year history of Americans defending American ideals and allies.  Where the American Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine stood, took their oath of service and faced an enemy.  Many of them have had their moment when the “guns went silent” be it an ambush, rocket attack, perimeter attack, when the immediate danger ended and they were relative safe . . . or when they boarded the “freedom bird” for rotation back to friends and family.  They were finally out of range of small arms fire, artillery fire, rockets and mortar fire . . . and the guns were truly silent.

To all Veterans – thank you for your service, for your willingness to defend us all, for your willingness to sacrifice all.  May the guns be silent and may you all enjoy the peace.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Training Course Review - Basic Patrol Rifle and Shotgun Instructor - POST Certified

On October 19th and 20th of this year Armed Missouri and NAPSI hosted Bill Regina of “Specialist Research and Training Group”.  Bill taught a two day POST Certified  “Basic Patrol Rifle Instructor Course” and a “Basic Patrol / LE Shotgun Instructor Course”.  Each course ran approximately 8 hours and was a mixture of some classroom but primarily range work.

A quick definition – POST

“Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST): In some states, the POST provides peace officers with the training and certification mandated by a state, including the authority to carry firearms, concealed or otherwise, subject to the written firearms policy created by the agency employing the peace officer.”

In this case it was the Missouri Post Program that had reviewed and approved this course for “Approved Provider” training credit and an appropriate Post Control Number was assigned to the course work. 

What that means is that a Peace Officer could take this coursework and be granted CE credit towards any Missouri state requirements for officers within their state.  It could also be granted in other stated dependent upon the individual state’s POST program.

However – for me as an instructor – it helped define what content should be in a Basic Patrol Rifle and a Basic Patrol Shotgun course.  It would then be up to me to develop and test the coursework and finally submit my coursework to my state’s POST Program for acceptance within my state.  This was not a . . . “teach this, it’s “certified” . . . kind of course.

This was also not a “shooting” course.  There was significant range time, but it was all focused on the “what to teach” in a course and NOT the actual teaching of the skill set.  It was assumed going into the course that you could “run the gun”, that you were already a proficient instructor and that your goal was to broaden your course offerings.  And that was indeed one of the purposes of myself and other NAPSI instructors in taking the coursework.  It is our intent down the road to offer coursework for both the carbine and the shotgun.  This seemed to be a solid place to start evaluating the content of that course work.

Bill Regina is the founder of the SRT Group , a retired law enforcement officer and has conducted training for military, contractors and law enforcement since 1997.  I found him to be direct, focused, very informative and profoundly competent in his instruction and on the range.  He went well beyond the “do it my way because experience!!!” and did deep dives on the “why” of things.  He was more than willing to respond to any question.  Much of the shotgun work was new to me and he took no issue with explaining things to me and helping me become much more proficient with that firearm.  

He also didn’t hesitate in his evaluation of our performance.  From tweaking our grips, adjusting our foot and explaining various reloads and malfunction clearing techniques – he kept things focused and moving.

Bottom line – good instructor!  Go, take things from him . . . you will learn a ton.

Basic Patrol Rifle

I wrote a post quite some time ago about my patrol rifle, you will find it here.  It is the rifle I depend on to defend myself and my family.  For the officer who rolls out of his car to engage a bad guy, the meaning is the same . . . it is used to defend himself, his fellow officers and civilians in the area.  The focus is different.  It’s not for plinking but for self-defense.  And that was where our energy was spent both in the classroom and on the range.

Our classroom period began with a medical brief (who does what, who has specific skills, the assignment of a primary and secondary responder, our location, info sheet should calls need to be made, location of medical kits) and a range safety brief.  The safety brief was repeated each day at the beginning on the range work and it was conducted on the range.

We also covered what is typically included on a patrol rifle – the rifle, spare magazines, sights (a red dot, irons, both), sling and flashlight.  

Next was a discussion of the basic rifle zero.  The standard taught in the course was a 50/200 yard zero.  This zero was also verified on the range at the 50 yard point but it was also evaluated at various distances much shorter than 50 yards – 5 yards, 10 yards, 15 yards, 25 yards . . . all with the idea of knowing where your bullet is going to go regardless of the distance you are shooting from.  It also acknowledges that most of the “work” done by a patrol rifle will typically be closer than 50 yards.

Keep in mind also that all of this was taught from the POV of . . . “This is what you should be teaching new officers and why it is important that they understand it.”

Once the zeroing was completed, we moved on to basic marksmanship where our position, the way we held and mounted the rifle, foot position and body position were evaluated.  Suggestions were made based upon the “why” of the situation.  Again, the view was how to instruct new officers and how to evaluate them during their shooting drills.

Various drills were shot, typically multiple rounds with Bill evaluating us and tweaking as needed.  

Reloads were next with discussions of where spare magazines are kept, what their orientation was in the mag holder – and why – and how to do a clean reload.  Discussions were also held about the difference between a forced or emergency reload and a “speed” (tactical) reload to top off the rifle.

Next up were malfunction drills.  Errors were introduced and methods were evaluated to clear them.  From the simple failure to fire to double feeds.  The case over the bolt was demonstrated but we did not induce them into our rifles.  Along with malfunctions were transitions.  You run dry, your rifle breaks, the threat is still a threat and you need to transition to you handgun quickly and smoothly.  A number of drills covered this particular topic.

Use of cover was shown as well as movement to cover, moving to cover for a reload and an understanding of the position behind cover for greatest usefulness.  Again, all of this was from the POV of teaching this to a new officer while paying particular attention to the “why” of the situation.

Shooting and moving was covered as was engaging multiple threats.  Also included was engaging the threat and moving quickly from the point of engagement and then reevaluating the threat.  The primary idea here was to teach the new officer that this isn’t just target practice and that he/she is better off moving as much as is practical.  

The day ended with shooting a 50-round course of fire for a qualification score.  We were required to shoot a minimum of a 90% to pass the coursework.

This was a very full day.  Again, it was not so much an instructional day as it was a “this is what you should teach new officers” kind of day – with Bill explaining, tweaking and evaluating us throughout the day.

We celebrated the day by having a great meal at a Mexican restaurant, spending some good time just BS-ing and getting ready for day two – shotgun.

Basic Patrol Shotgun

I have no experience using a shotgun for personal defense.  I’ve used it trap shooting and bird hunting.  But using it in a combat type environment – nope, none.  I have a Remington 870 with an extended tube.  I can carry 6 rounds in the tube, one in the chamber and 6 in the “side saddle” on the left side of the frame opposite the ejection port.  For me, this particular gun was new and frankly the sidesaddle was useless simply because if held rounds so firmly and could not easily pull one out.  So, I threw 15-ish rounds of bird shot in my rear left pants pocket, 5 rounds of 00-Buck in my left front pocket and 5 rounds of slug in my left cargo pocket.  This management seemed to work well for me.

A pump shotgun is also labor intensive – both in the act of shooting as well as reloading.  I was satisfied with my performance by the end of the day, but it is, in no way, intuitive to a new shooter.  Something to keep in mind when teaching a new officer or defensive shooter.

Minimal time was spent in the classroom.  A review of medical assignments was made and then a general overview of a standard pump action patrol shotgun was given.  Again, standard equipment bubbled out to be a sling, flashlight, and some type of sight – front bead, red dot or ghost rings.  Once these discussions were had, we headed to the range.

Our very first drill was “patterning” . . . just what will your shotgun do.  For that we loaded five rounds of 00-Buck shot.  We shot single rounds from 5,7,10,12 and 15 yards and noticed the spread.  Remember, 00-Buck is typically 9 rounds of .32 caliber ball.  The general consensus was with standard buckshot 15 yards is pretty much the max effective distance for the round.  A couple rounds of Federal Flight Control 00-Buck were demoed as well – it significantly affects the patterning and can extend the useful range significantly.

Our general marksmanship and shooting drills were done with birdshot on steel targets.  This essentially focused on “running the gun”.  It was also a time to work on tweaking stocks, evaluating the particular firearm, working on the location of rounds for reloads . . . all in all, I’m happy with my choice of 870s and the way it ran.  I have a fondness for “keep it simple” and the 870 is about as basic as it can get.  I have a light, sling and ghost rings.  My rear sling point separated near the very end of the day, figure some blue Loctite will handle that.

During this time, we simply got familiar with loading the tube quickly and easily, a combat load of a single round, using a tactical reload for a “slug drill” – I need a slug – NOW!!” drill.

We worked a few malfunction drills – primarily a failure to fire drill and talked about double feeds and rounds stuck in the chamber.

Use of cover again came up as did transition drills when you need to transition from the shotgun to your handgun.

And shooting and moving as well as multiple threat engagements were reviewed.

Finally, at the end of the day there was a qualification shoot as well with a minimum passing score of 90% required.

A quick range cleanup and a final sit down – AAR in the classroom allowed us to review, decompress and share our thoughts about the past two day.

Honestly, I had my concerns before I came on what could be accomplished in only a single day for each platform.  The shortest carbine class I’ve taken was 3 days.  The shortest ILEA patrol rifle course I’ve taken is 3 days and 900 rounds.  Not to mention adding in shotgun instructor.  I had my doubts.

The fact that we were all experienced, all instructors and all active instructors mitigated most of my concerns.  The focus on learning what to teach, what a new officer or new defensive shooter needs to learn eliminated my remaining concerns.  We learned and focused on the “what” and NOT the “how”.  And Bill got that job done very well.  

The bottom-line truth is that for officers, what we learned to teach will more than likely take three days to actually teach.  For an officer or an individual who has never shot a carbine or never used a shotgun for personal defense – three days of classroom and range work is a realistic timeframe depending on the depth the course.  But, for simply fleshing out what needs to be taught and a review of various techniques, a single day for each worked very well.

Good course, good time, good information and a solid foundation for moving forward with course development.  What more could I ask for.

Thanks for your time Bill, I appreciated it!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Just the Basics - Every Day Carry and a range trip

Every Day Carry is a term used to define what you put on your body and in your pockets that will give you the ability to defend yourself, your family and those in your charge.  I've written about it a number of times, updated it and posted it in written form with photos.  I thought I'd try something different and do a short video to cover the same material just from a little different angle.

One correction in the video . . . the defensive knife is manufactured by Benchmade and not BladeTech.  My apologies.

For your viewing pleasure . . .

In addition I also had a short practice session following making the video.  I used my standard LETarget SEB target with the usual "rules" in place . . . High Center Mass box - 2-5 rounds.  Numbered shapes as well as the ocular cavity - a single shot.  Finally the pelvic girdle was engaged with three 5-round groups.  The total round count was 60 rounds from 6 yards.  I dropped 7 rounds for a final score of 88%.  My minimum acceptable score is 80% so I am well within my personal expectation.  That said, I felt about 3 of the flyers as soon as I pressed the trigger.  Moral . . . every trigger press is important!  Here is the target from the session.

So, there ya have it . . . some thoughts for the day . . . and the results of my short practice session.  Feel free to let me know what you think.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Training - Precision Rifle - How the heck am I doing

It was a great day today . . . mid-40s, clear, sun, little wind after lunch . . . what to do, what to do??

Range trip, of course!  A small handful of other guys had the same idea.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time of late with my Ruger Precision 22LR so I though I’d bring out the bigger guys – my backup AR configured for long range work and my Ruger Precision .308.  I brought 60 rounds per rifle.  Typically I’ve been keeping rifle trips to 50 rounds each.  I have a rifle instructor target I use for my students that has 5ea, 3-inch targets on it.  This lets me shoot 5 rounds groups, chuck out the flyer and see how my 80% group looks.  I like this process.  And, the 50 round limit is typically a good stopping point from a focus/concentration POV as well.  I obviously pushed it today with two different rifles, but the difference between the two is great enough that it really helped me to re-focus when I moved from the .223 to the .308.  Regardless, it’s how I laid out the trip.

I began with the .223 backup AR.  I have a Nikon Prostaf 5 mounted on it and a Timney 4lb, single stage trigger installed with a bipod.  Nothing tricky.  Honestly though, I have a hard time shooting this rifle well.  On my first 5-target, target – my average group size was 1.9 inches.  My second was 2.25 inches.  Initially the zero was nearly 4 inches high.  Admittedly I don’t baby this rifle with special, padded case but even after adjusting zero the groups feel a bit open.  The other piece of the puzzle is the ammo I’m using – PMC Bronze .223 55gr.  The only other group size test I found, the best the shooter could do was 5.1-inch group.  And, being a cheap bastard, I’m not about to buy match grade for this particular rifle . . . so I take comfort in having an average group size for 10 targets of 2.075 inches rather than 5 inches.  So, why does this even matter??  How can I evaluate my group size given the purpose of the rifle?  Let’s chat about that before moving on to the .308.

My POV for virtually all my range work is the defense of myself, my family or folks in my charge.  It’s also to work my way through crap sessions, poor performance, a variety of rifles . . . and find ways to get better so I can become a better instructor for everyone I work with from Boy Scouts to local LEOs.  If I can’t find ways to improve, to evaluate my mistakes, to find and smooth the sticky points for myself, how the heck can I help folks I help train??

From a defensive POV, if I can engage a threat with “combat effective hits” – hits that will affect their ability to do me harm, I’m headed in the right direction.  A 2-inch group at 100yards becomes a 4-inch group at 200 yards, a 6-inch group at 300 yards, an 8-inch group at 400 yards and a 10-inch group at 500 yards.  Given that most “real work” in defensive situations is conducted at 200 yards or less, a 4-inch group placed “high center mass” will significantly degrade a threat’s ability to do me and mine harm.   That said, there is certainly a bunch of room for improvement while still providing confirmation that I am well prepared to engage a threat within that 200-yard range.

The Ruger Precision Rifle in .308 performed as I expected.  There was no need to adjust the zero though we’ll talk a bit about that on the “aggregate” target (a compilation of all 50 rounds plotted on a single target).  The average group size here dropped to 1.85 inches for 10 targets.  I may well need to adjust the zero down and left about an inch each, but not until my group size consistently drops to the 1MOA range.  With this rifle my “sticky” points are proper use of the bipod and rear bag to create a rock-solid sight picture each and every time.  And, recoil mitigation though I must say the RPR shoots much softer than other .308s I’ve used. 

Again, if I look to the reason I put this rifle in my “line-up” – defense of myself, my family and folks in my charge, I’m confident I can place combat effective rounds on a threat within the typical 200-yard range and get hits out to 500 yards should the need arise. 

Past that, Precision Rifle Shooting has really taken off in our area thanks largely to the efforts of Jim See.  This rifle, with a good scope, is a great entry level gun for right at $3,000.  I took Jim’s precision rifle course with my AP4 which I sold to help with the purchase of the RPR.  He runs a great course and I strongly recommend it when he comes to your area if PRS is an area of interest for you.

The engineer in me also had to come out and play a bit.  I found an interesting site on “Group Size Analysis”.  One of the areas they looked at was a simulation of rounds on a target and how the number for rounds shot affected the group size.  More rounds, the larger the over all group size.  Anyway I integrated this in my evaluation of my range trip by plotting all 50 rounds for the .308 on a single target.  The overall group size for this target was 3-1/8th inches.  As you can see, there is strong evidence for moving 3/10ths down and 3/10ths left (MILS) but I’m going to wait a bit yet to make sure it’s not entirely me.  But, I found the plot interesting.  One particular value I think most shooters would find in doing this once in awhile is that, as you plot each round, it leads you to think about what the heck happened there?  I know you can sense and see a “flyer” but this will take you back to that instant.  It will give you one more chance to ask “what the hell???” and give you something more to work on when you hit the range the next time.

Bottom line, please don’t just go and make holes.  Document your trip.  Take some time to review it, think about it, see where you need improvement, see what’s working OK, continually evaluate your position, trigger press, how you mount the rifle, what your follow through is like, your breath management . . . all the little things that you need to master to become the shooter you want to be.

Now . . . go hit the range!  Enjoy!!


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Training – Final Zero and a New Skills Test

 The rabbit hole of precision shooting continues . . .

Today was the final zero on the Ruger Precision 22LR.  I have right at 200 rounds through it, things have remained stable, so I did an initial cold bore shot (about 2 inches high) followed by 4 more rounds on the first target.  As you can see by the photo it was a fairly open group.  I followed with another 5 rounds on target 2.  The group dropped to around ½”.  I adjusted down ¾ MOA and shot two more 5-round groups that held ½” within the center of each target.

Bottom line, I think this particular rifle is “dialed in” as well as I know how to do it.  From this point on, the accuracy and precision falls squarely on my shoulders and my precision shooting ability.  And that, in deed, is the purpose of range trips going forward with this particular rifle.  It revolves around all the fundamentals – mounting the rifle to my shoulder, use of a rear shooting bag, use of a bipod, clearly placing the scope reticle on the target, working on my grip and making sure it doesn’t affect the POA, working on placing my cheek on the comb and again making sure it doesn’t affect the POA, placing my finger on the trigger, a smooth trigger press straight to the rear and running the bolt smoothly so as to not greatly affect the sight picture.  It’s always the “details” . . . the small things that make the difference in your final result.

Past that, how do you evaluate that “final result” . . . your ability to shoot accurately and precisely.  For the zeroing process that this range trip began with, a traditional bullseye styled target served sell.  But, past that, there is a broad range of different types of targets available – from steel to paper.  Today I ran across a simple 23 round test of accuracy and precision that is contained on a single 8 ½ by 11 sheet of paper.

The very first dot is a “cold bore” shot.  Virtually every rifle’s POI will change as a barrel heats up.  It’s important that you, the shooter, know how your specific rifle shoots for its cold bore shot.  One thing I noticed here is that it’s first 5 rounds are much more scattered that I would really expect.  That said, after that it settles right down.  Once I completed its final zero I moved on to the above precision shooting target.  It’s designed to be used at 100 yards but with the RP22LR, I used our 50-yard range.  The cold bore shot was followed by 10 dots, I shot all 10 strong side.  Next was a 3 round headshot and then two boxes, 3 rounds each.  Final, 3 hostage shots.  I dropped 4 of the 23 for an 83%.  I’ll take it for a first pass. 

So what should your targets help you with?  I believe they should be appropriate to what you are working on.  For me, I view my long guns as part of my defensive capabilities.  This new target fills a broad range of “squares” – from allowing me to see how my rifle acts for its cold bore shot, how accurately I can hit my target, how well I can execute a head shot, how accurately I can engage a target quickly and finally, how I can execute a hostage shot.  All in all, this target does a pretty good job of allowing me to evaluate a fairly broad range of skills.

In under all of this is also the value of simply spending time on the range with one of my firearms.  To be able to “run the gun”, time on the range is a must.  I’ve said this a number of times but let me repeat it one more time.  For those firearms you intend to depend on to defend yourself and your family – from carry gun to “patrol rifle” to precision rifle – buy 1,000 rounds for each in January and then spend 100 rounds every month to keep up your skill set.  This would be between 3-4 hours per month working with your firearms.  That’s enough to maintain a skillset.  I view it as a minimum.

Bottom line . . . grab your gun, hit the range, have fun and learn something!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Review and Range Trip – With the Ruger Precision Rimfire

I’ve been enjoying poking my nose down the rabbit hole that is “precision shooting”.  I began with a DPMS LM308.  This year I sold that particular system and purchased a Ruger Precision Rifle in .308.  It’s a great gun.  With a VORTEX mildot scope it becomes and exceptional buy.  However, with “cheap” PMC X-TAC ammo running $.75 per round, not to mention match grade ammo running nearly double that . . . it’s a pricey platform to learn and practice all the little details of precision shooting on.

In response to this Ruger released their Ruger Precision Rimfire rifle as a trainer for the Precision Rifle series.  It allows you to learn, experience, practice, work out kinks at a much-reduced cost.  I am shooting Eley Club ammunition.  In lots of 500 rounds the cost is only $.15 per round.  I’ve made two detailed trips to the range after initially sighting in the rifle shooting 50 rounds each trip.  That has taken about 1-1/2 hours each trip, but I believe I got good work done.  And, that’s what this post is about . . . the weapon system, how it’s configured and what I worked on during this last trip.

Let me say up front that this post is meant for the “new and inexperienced shooter".  That is the focus of my blog.  However, I do share these posts on instructor groups as well so I can receive their feedback and share my approach as well.  Hopefully we all learn from the post and the responses.  Time will tell.

The Ruger Precision Rimfire is an 18”, 6.8 lb., bolt action rifle with a 15 round magazine provided (though it will accept standard Ruger 10/22 magazines).  It is built around the form factor of the Ruger Precision Rifle series including their adjustable trigger.  Mine came set for 2.5 lbs. of pull.  I mounted a sling swivel to the provided MAGPUL M-LOK handguard and then attached a Caldwell tripod.  I also mounted a Nikon ProStaff Rimfire 3-9 X 40 scope with BDC reticle. 

The standard range distance for this rifle/scope combination is 50 yards which means you’re looking for group sizes of ½ inch or less.  In a previous trip I tried a number of types of ammunition ranging from the Winchester “333 rounds per box” cheap stuff to my final selection – Eley Club 40 gr rounds.  That is the only round I fired on this trip.  Honestly, over that past 2-ish years I’ve been working on precision shooting I find that after 50 rounds down range my learning and evaluation diminishes so that’s what I’ve settled on for now.

What a good training rifle should do is to emulate, as close as possible, the final rifle you will be shooting.  The Ruger Precision Rimfire does this exceptionally well.  You can fully adjust the stock, the trigger pull, even the length of the bolt throw to emulate its “big brothers and sisters”. 

So, what the heck does one “work on” when attempting “precision rifle shooting”?  Here is my list and my thoughts as they are today . . . time and additional experience will probably change some of these things.

Weapon setup:  the mounting of the scope, bipod, the adjustment of the trigger pull, the setup of the adjustable stock, the type and use of a bag for additional stability and finally, zeroing the system are all initial items.  I’m pretty happy with everything right now.  The zero has held solid, the bag and bipod are working well . . . so all is well in this part of my world.

Ammunition selection:  I was aided by simply perusing the internet for recommendations for precision .22 caliber ammunition.  Ely bubbles out pretty damn quick as “the” vendor many folks use.  There was an exceptional test of 22 ammunition completed and posted by the folks on the website.  If you are looking for comparisons between the host of 22 ammunition available, take some time to look at their work.  You will note that there is little difference between the different Eley rounds and the Club version is much more economical than their match grade option.  As I said, I am happy with that particular choice.

Mounting the rifle and obtaining a consistent and stable sight picture through the scope:  Obviously this is one of a number of elements (in my opinion anyway) to placing an accurate and precise rounds down range.  It consists of a handful of components to do it well.  Loading the bipod – leaning slightly into the bipod to stabilize the front of the weapon and to help mitigate the recoil.  Next is the cheek weld on the comb on the stock.  Finding that spot on both your face and the comb that, when the two meet, your sight picture is exactly as you want it to be.  Next is using your support hand to grip the bag, placing it under to butt of the stock and squeezing it just the right amount to get the vertical placement of the reticle of the scope on your target.  And learning to do this particular process quickly and consistently.  Next is gripping the stock.  What works well for me to help with stability is that I DO NOT wrap my thumb across the back of the grip but rather simply lay is forward along the right side of the grip.  Placing the trigger finger is next, about 1/3 from finger tip to first joint works well for me.  This gets me ready for the actual shot . . . and must be “firmed up” prior to each and every round I send down range.

Next is trigger press:  For about half of the rounds – once past the “cold bore” stage – around 10-13 rounds - I used the “press slowly and be surprised by the shot” approach for half the remaining rounds and then I changed to the “deliberate press” that is simply firmly pressing the trigger to the rear in one quick, smooth press once I see the sight picture I wanted.  And making sure this DOES NOT turn into jerking the trigger.  Finally, follow through – hold the trigger to the rear, come back on target and then work the bolt for the next round.

Hopefully this explains how sending 50 rounds down range can take an hour and a half to do.  It takes time to feel your way through each round, to insure you are doing what you want and . . . when you don’t . . . making notes to account for the “How the hell did that happen!?!?!?” rounds.  On the targets I’ll show these are called “flyers”.

So, for this trip, how did I do . . . and what did I learn.  Let’s start with sheet number one.  A few quick words about these specific targets.  I made these and I use them in my rifle instructor course for BSA rifle instructors.  They are typically shot using iron sights at 50 feet.  However, for a 9x scope, they work great for 50 yards.  And being a lazy critter, I can post two targets in one trip down range and conduct my entire trip without having to schlep down range.  The scope allows more than adequate spotting capabilities at 50 yards.  And, as you can see, rather that writing notes in a DOPE book, I can simply annotate the target and either take a photo of the target for my records or punch holes in it and put it in a range notebook.  I actually do both of these things.

A “cold bore shot” is that first round through the barrel.  It’s placement on the target will not be the same as with a warm barrel.  Most final adjustments made to the scope are after a number of rounds have been sent down range and warmed up the barrel.  That’s why there is typically a place where you can mark your cold bore shot in your DOPE book.  DOPE stands for Data Observed on Previous Engagement.  It is a history of your rounds through the specific weapon you are shooting.  It is particularly handy if you are developing you own loads, but it also lets you learn how your particular rifle shoots . . . and lets you catch issues as they crop up.  These may be mechanical ( say a loose scope ) or perhaps you’re beginning to jerk the trigger or developing flinch.  They are very good tools to help you as a precision shooter.

As I said, they let you know how your rifle performs.  How many times have you heard a shooter at the bench next to you pull out his rifle, send his first couple rounds down range and then say something like “Darn it!! I just zeroed this thing last week and look at it!  It’s nearly an inch off!!!  CRAP!!!”  And then they start cranking on the scope which devolves into “chasing the hole” as their barrel heats up.  I’ve seen this all too often.

You will note that on Sheet 1, target 1 the group is a bit high and only has 4 rounds on it.  Look a bit to the right and you will notice a single round on the left edge of target 2.  That was my first round of the day.  Heavy sigh . . . and while the round group is still ½ inch-ish.  You will notice that by the time I am through target 2, and half way through my 5 rounds on target 3, the groups are beginning to tighten and increasing in accuracy with typically having one flyer thrown in on too many of the 5 round groups. 

So, for true evaluation of how I am doing with mounting the weapon, bagging the rear, placing the reticle where I want it, watching my grip, working on trigger press and follow through, targets 4 and 5 on sheet 1 have value and all of sheet 2 has value.

On target 4 I am posting a ¼-inch group with one flyer and on target 5 I have a ¼ x ½-inch group that indicated by bag work sucked.  Notice the rounds are in a nice, vertical line indicating either I was remiss in the amount of pressure I applied to the bag for each round, or my breath management needs work particularly the pause at the bottom of the cycle.

Note that on target 1 of sheet 2 I have an OK group but it is on the “fat” side of ½ inch.  This is the last target where my trigger press was such that I slowly pressed the trigger waiting for the “surprise”.  This leads to a long-duration trigger press.  The longer it takes, the more things can “wiggle”.  Beginning with target 2 of sheet 2 I worked on a “deliberate” but smooth trigger press.  When I saw the sight picture I wanted, I paused my breath and just pressed the trigger.  Wasn’t concerned with “slow” and focused on “smooth”.  The groups definitely tightened up . . . but each target each had a “flyer”, one round that was uncharacteristically much farther away from the primary group.  This would indicate that for 1 out of the 4 rounds I “jerked” the trigger and did not “deliberately and smoothly” press the trigger.

So, what’s the bottom line for this particular trip?  First, the setup is solid.  The shot placement was precise and mostly accurate for the 50 rounds.  The ammunition is consistent.  The results here pretty well matched my initial sighting in and familiarization trip to the range.  Overall my technique is OK – I think – and yielded ½ inch-ish groups.  That said, it’s apparent the weapon is capable of ¼ inch groups or better.  And finally, the flyers simply show that each and every round is important and I need to focus on EVERY ROUND.

It was a good trip IMHO.  I confirmed that weapon setup.  I got to experience the move from cold bore shots to shots when the barrel is “up to temperature” and actually see the difference.  I was able to work on a couple different approaches to trigger press.  And, I have a list of things to work on for the next range trip.

So, thoughts for new and inexperienced shooter . . . and perhaps experienced shooters.  Take your time on the range.   Yep, it’s fun to make holes and make it go bang . . . but back to a favorite phrase of mine – “Practice with purpose”.  Define your range trip, have a plan, execute the plan and evaluate your work as you go.  Document your trip whether it be in your DOPE book or on the target that you keep or take photos of.  We all spend a fair amount of money on our toys . . . and it takes work to get the most out of them.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Training - Brushing off the Rust

For those of us in the northern half of the US – in my case east central Iowa – the weather has started to warm.  Spring is late this year to be honest, with significant snowfall well into April.  And while I do my best, trips to the range diminish with the onset of temps in, and below, the single digits.  So, it’s time to brush the rust off and see where I am at the beginning of this year’s shooting and training season.

What I want to chat about is the “what” and a suggestion of “how” your rust brushing should be done.  Yes. . . I know everyone has their opinion, this is simply mine.

First things first – does your gun RUN?  What I mean by “gun” is your daily carry gun.  The one that, as you read this post, rests snuggly on your hip or at your 1 o’clock in a AIWB holster.  What I mean by “RUN” is that it should complete your entire drill set error free.  The course of fire you choose should wring this out and include multiple magazine changes as well.

Is your draw smooth and sure?  Our past winter was particularly chilly so a multi-layer system for me was common.  My draw stroke with an IWB holster under a Henley, under a Columbia cold weather system, with gloves on . . . takes a bit longer.  Not orders of magnitude longer . . . but longer.  On this range trip I was back to a single, untucked shirt.  Much better!  The process of smoothing things out revolves around multiple draws from the holster.  So, your course of fire should encourage just that – a sizable number of draws prior to engagement.

Marksmanship is in the mix as well.  Can you hit the threat or accurately place a precise shot?  Can you shoot a qualifying score – in my case not less than an 80%.  Of course, this means you need to define scoring before your first shot and not “adjust” things to make yourself feel better.  In my case I’m using my target of choice – the LETargets SEB target.  A good hit is within the High Center Mass box, Pelvic Girdle box, within the precision shapes or the Ocular cavity.  Within means within or touching the shape.  What is does not mean is – “anything within the silhouette is a hit”.

Next is round count.  How many rounds can be used to effectively evaluate where the heck you are shooting wise?  I have three training magazines.  My approach was to put 15 rounds in each magazine for a total of 45 rounds for each of three distances – a total of 135 rounds.  This also insured 9 magazine changes.

Finally, the course of fire.  I chose three distances – 5y, 10y and 15y. 

The first magazine was a single round engagement, high center mass for each draw.

The second magazine was an accelerated pair of on the pelvic girdle plus the remaining single round

The third magazine was all precision shots.
·        Draw and a single round engagement on the #1 shape.  The next draw was a single round engagement on the #2 shape.  And so on . . . through the #6 Shape.

·        Next was a draw and an accelerated pair on the #1 shape.  The next draw was an accelerated pair on the #2 shape.  And so on  . . . through the #4 Shape.

·        The final draw was a single round engagement on the Ocular Cavity.

·        Total round count – 45 rounds.

This process was repeated for stage 2 at 10 yards.  And, it was varied at stage three at 15 yards in that I scored the High Center Mass and Pelvic Girdle boxes separate from the precise shots.  The reasoning for this I that I considered it imperative that I “pass” on the boxes and see it as less than realistic to shoot an 80% on 7 different boxes that are 3 ½”-ish at 15 yards.  Again, the parameters are mine, you may well choose a higher expectation of yourself.

Once I had this defined, I shot the course of fire from three different targets at three different distances.  As I am wont to do, I took photos of each target.  HOWEVER – pro tip – check to make sure your images are actually recorded!  Sadly, I did not and I must not have been diligent in pressing the button on the screen firmly or whatever was needed.  The only target actually photographed was the one at 10y.  And, of course I had applied one target over the other.  Heavy sigh.  But, I did go back and take a photo of the summary at the top of each target for inclusion in this post.

There was one other change for the day that played in this process – the previous week  I had driven to Brownells and purchased a Wilson Combat Match Grade Barrel for my carry Glock 17.  I had run around 60 rounds through it previously, but this was it’s first go to evaluate reliability and accuracy in my weapon.  The obvious concern is that with much tighter tolerances, would there be problems with the gun not running as smoothly as I am used to.  The answer . . . it ran just fine, no feeding problems or ejection issues at all.

So bottom line, how did the day go?  On the 5 yard target I was down zero for a score of 100%

On the 10 yard target I was down 5 for a score of 89%

On the 15 yard target I was down 6 on the High Center Mass and Pelvic Girdle boxes for a score of 80%.  I did score the precision boxes as well . . . wasn’t pretty.  For 15 rounds I was down 11 . . . for a score of 27%.   Nope, I can not constantly shoot a 3 ½” group at 15 yards.  Honestly, this is also a place I don’t intend to spend a great deal of time on either.  The primary focus of my defensive practice will remain within the 7 yards range with some work done out to 10 yards.

So, if I did the math right for each distance there were three magazines, 45 rounds and 34 draws from concealment for a grand total of 135 round and 102 draws.  More than enough, IMNSHO, to brush off the rust and get me headed in the right direction.

Take some time, plan your first big range trip of the season, evaluate your skill set and see where your starting point is for this year.  Then post your approach and your result.  We can all learn from each other!