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


Saturday, June 13, 2020

Review - FDP Course 6-11-12-2020 AAR

Honestly, it is seldom that I get a class full of “new AND inexperienced” shooters.  Yet, that is what I had this week.  Three couples with little or no experience with handguns at all.  The class just kind of sprung up within a couple days.  Our current civil unrest played no small part in this with the 24/7 news cycle showing burning towns, armed folks taking over swaths of cities, police under attack . . . more than enough to cause fear, discomfort and a certain amount of wonder about . . . “what would I do if the police could not respond quickly enough should I need them?”  And that was the crux of the concern for the three couples sitting before me in the classroom . . . how do I defend myself if the police are unable to.

The foundational course I teach for new defensive shooters – regardless of the level of their experience – is the NAPSI Foundations of Defensive Pistol.  It runs 9+ hours and with 6 students we ran two squad of shooters on the range essentially doubling the range time.  Total course time this run-through?  Right at 10.5 hours.  It was spread over 2 days making it just a bit easier on the new folks.

What makes the NAPSI FDP coursework different from others that I teach is that it is “defense-centric” . . . it’s purpose is to give you foundational information that will help you become a better defensive shooter, and for new shooters – give you a fairly broad introduction to the topic.

We start with the different types of handguns and do a through review of the nomenclature – SA Revolvers, DA Revolvers, SA Semiautomatic Pistols, SA/DA Semiautomatic Pistols and finally striker fired semiautomatic pistols.  We cover the different sizes and their uses.

Holsters, belts, clothing – life changes are also covered.  Carrying a defensive handgun will change the way your day works – and new shooters need to understand that and to understand ways to cope with it.

We cover some very basic legal aspects of defensive carry explicitly touching on AOJP – Ability, Opportunity, Jeopardy and Preclusion.  We bring in disparity of force as well. 

We work on the idea of purposefully observing your surroundings as your go through your day and making sound defensive decisions based on what you observe.

Next we move into the beginnings of defensive shooting.  We work through a persons natural response to a threatening situation and then see how that can be adapted to the beginnings of an armed response. 

We talk about different methods of aiming a defensive handgun from true sighted fire to alternatives that are quicker when the time for sighted fire is just not there.

Safe gun handling is simply a must to that is a major part of the entire day beginning on the in-classroom SIRT range.  I can cover up to 5 shooters on a make-shift SIRT range.  This gives us a tremendous opportunity to work on stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow through without the added concern of live fire.  We can introduce range commands, loading methods, various drills they will experience in the safety and comfort of a SIRT range.

Finally, we get to range work moving students from drills that are actually “movement by command” drills up through single and multiple round engagements and ending with an introduction to the use of cover and concealment.  All in all their range time is typically about 3 hours and 200 rounds of ammunition.  It ends with a 30-round qualification shoot where we evaluate safe gun handling, proper shooting stance and accuracy.

The course ends with a short test to evaluate overall understanding of the classroom material, an After Action Review to listen to their thoughts on the day, what they liked and didn’t like and then the distribution of course certificates.

This was a great bunch of new shooters.  They knew why they were there, were focused, interested and worked hard!  It was a fun and productive 2 days.

So, if you are looking for coursework, make sure it fits your needs.  Defensive shooting involves much more that just getting a carry permit – make sure the coursework you take move you in the right direction!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Review - Ruger American Rifle Predator in 223

Training guns . . . they are a part of every learning process.  For the last little while – past 4 years or so – I’ve been working on becoming a better precision shooter.  When I say those words what I mean is that I can put a solid group (precision) where I want them to go (accuracy).  I’ve discussed that process in an earlier post you can read HERE.  

My rifle of choice for Precision Rifle Shooting is the Ruger Precision Rifle in .308.  Match grade ammunition runs around $1.50 per round so each 50-100 round practice trip runs from $75 to $150 with store bought ammunition.  Obviously reloading enters the picture here . . . but until I’m satisfied with my efforts . . . shooting with quality ammunition is expensive.

Enter . . . Training Rifles.

My first choice here is the Ruger Precision Rifle in .22 Long Rifle.  This is a dream to shoot and reasonable good match ammunition is available for about $75 for 500 rounds.  A significant difference.  I’ve chatted about this rifle and my search for good ammunition on my blog as well.  On a 50 yard range I can frequently shoot 1 MOA and below.  This allows me to work on all the fundamentals without spending a crap ton on ammunition.  That said, there is something said for working with a rifle that also allows some work on recoil mitigation and that will reliably reach out to 100 yards or more.  

Enter the .223.

I have a backup rifle for my Patrol Rifle that I take to coursework in case my primary takes a crap.  So, I put a moderately priced Nikon Prostaff 5 scope on it, upgraded the trigger, added a bipod and a couple 10-round magazines and presto-change-o . . . training rifle!   MMMmmmm . . . not so much.  As you can see, even with higher quality Frontier .223 with match grade bullets, my groups just plain sucked.  So . . . time to look for a “real” rifle.

I had a couple requirements.  It couldn’t break the bank.  I’m sure for a couple grand I could find a hell of a shooter . . . but . . . “couple grand”.  That said, I wanted a rifle that could consistently shoot a 1 MOA group at 100 yards.  That is the length of the range I have full access to and where I spend most of my time working on foundational shooting.  Let the internet search begin!  While I found a number of rifles that met my requirements, I finally settled on the Ruger American Rifle – Predator in .223.  To be honest, the deciding factor was that there was one in stock at a local Sheels store for $469 . . . and I could pick it up at lunch time.  But, after the first 100 rounds or so I gotta say I’m pretty darn happy with the purchase.

I picked up my son, had a quick lunch and headed to Sheels to claim my rifle.  After the usual paperwork (in Iowa carry permits expedite things to the point I could walk out with my rifle at the time of purchase) I dropped him at his house and headed back home and to my office.  Here I quickly transferred the scope to the Predator mounting it with a pair of Leupold scope rings.  As a reminder, make sure the bottom of the rings are pushed forward in the notch of the rail before you torque them down to the recommended levels.  And, leave the top rings loose until you get the eye relief how you want it before you torque the top of the ring screws down to the recommended levels as well.  I did not lap the rings, I’ll see how things go long term.  Honestly, I was just plain impatient to hit the range to see how this fellow shot.  I did a function check, ran a few patches through the bore and grabbed a couple boxes of PMC 55gr ball ammunition.  By the time I got to the range I had an hour and a half of daylight left.  The good news . . . it was 57 degrees . . . on January 9th . . . at 4PM in the afternoon!!!  

I typically start with a 10-yard 50/200 zero with a .223 round.  I removed the bolt, bagged the rifle and did a quick bore sight adjustment on the scope.  At that distance the round will impact about 2 inches below your POI.  That complete, I put a couple rounds through it to confirm.  It was spot on.  I just had time to put 25 rounds down range at 50 yards to confirm zero.  You can see the results on the 5 targets.  The smallest group was .50 . . . the largest was 1.375.  The average was .95 over 5 targets.   I was fine with this for first shots . . . and . . . it was nearly dark.  The 100-yard range would have to wait until another day.

The 100-yard day came the following day, January 10th.  The day was a bit more “seasonal”, reaching a high of 29 degrees.  But otherwise it was a very nice day for shooting.  Before getting to the range I hit the local gun store for some better-quality ammunition – Frontier 5.56 loaded with a Hornady 75gr BTHP match bullet.  

Given that the Frontier was a bit pricier, I thought I’d wring out the PMC 55gr ball ammunition as well as the Frontier with the 75gr BTHP match bullet.  So I hung two zeroing targets and two targets to shoot for both accuracy and precision.  As you can see from the zeroing targets (with the rotated 3 ½-inch squares) its performance was poor and that followed through to the 5 separate 3 inch targets.  Accuracy was crap as was precision.  I was praying that this was NOT a sign of things to come with the Frontier ammunition.

As you can see the first zero group was high and right.  I dialed down and left and shot a second group on target #1 – much better.  I then shot a final group on target #2 – I was happy with that measuring around .5” in height and 1.25” in width.  On to the 25- round evaluation.  As you can see from the 5 targets, accuracy and precision was MUCH better with an average group size of 1.175.  I gotta say I was much happier with the performance of the Frontier ammunition and it would seem I have exactly what I was looking for – a .223 rifle that is consistently capable of a 1 MOA group at 100 yards.  I’m pretty darn early in this “relationship” but after my first focused range trip, I’m encouraged with the performance of this $469 rifle.

Some over all thoughts.  The value of the purchase is exceptional.   It’s a well-made firearm, has a heavier barrel and I saw no real loss of performance while attempting to run a total of 100 rounds through it in a couple hours. The stock has a nice “feel” to it and provides for an easy and firm grip.  The butt plate is fairly soft and provides for quite a bit of recoil mitigation – not that there is much recoil to begin with. I will be adding a riser pad to the comb of the stock to help with consistent placement of the rifle to my cheek.  For this trip I simply laid a couple leather gloves over the comb to act as a riser.  As an aside – I had 7 failure to fire rounds with the Frontier ammunition.  The failed rounds have been passed on to the supplier but, that number of failures over 50 rounds is disappointing.  While the bolt was a bit stiff at the beginning it smoothed out considerably over the range trip.  I suspect that will continue to improve.  The trigger broke right at 3 pounds and seemed consistent over the range trip.  This matches with both the 22LR and the .308 precision rifles from Ruger allowing a consistent trigger press across the three platforms.

All in all, I’m more than happy with my purchase of the Ruger American Rifle – Predator in .223.  If you are looking for a good training rifle that doesn't blow a hole in your wallet, I would suggest you t ake a look at the Predator.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Training - 2020 - 1000 Rounds

We’ve had this discussion before.  But, given the recent events at the church in Texas, the shooting and knifing of Jews in NYC, the direct threats of Iran after we eliminated the worlds single most dangerous terrorist . . . I thought a gentle reminder might help.  First let’s set the table . . .



It’s a simple binary choice . . .

DIE . . . or . . . FIGHT . . .


Dramatic??  I don’t think so.  Watch the video of the Texas church or the two shooters entering the Jewish grocery.  The violence was direct, overwhelming . . . and fatal.  In the case of Texas it ended in 6 seconds after three members of a church security team acted to stop the shooter.  Two died, as did the shooter . . . in 6 seconds.

In the grocery attack, the shooters killed 2 officers, 3 civilians.  There were no “good guys with guns” (because “New York” and “only the police need guns”), just law enforcement.  The standoff lasted hours.

Notice a difference??  How things can go when you arm to defend yourself and when you bet your life on “dial 911”?  

My point is not to argue the fine points of these two events.  If you read this blog, I assume you have some level of dedication to carrying a defensive firearm.  In my not so humble opinion – this is your best bet to insure you and your family go home, each and every evening, safely.  And, that should a bad guy pop up, you can quickly and decisively handle that situation.

While there are many elements to this – from clothing to education – let’s focus on the foundation, Marksmanship, Gun Handling and Mindset.  If you can’t hit what you’re aiming at, if you can run your gun, if you can keep you head in the game under stress . . . you have a problem.

This post is NOT about acquiring your skillset initially.  That process is a simple process of time, money and willingness.  Take GOOD coursework – annually.  Make sure it includes range time that instructs and teaches.  Typical courses run 1 to 3 days and cost $200 to $1500, not including your travel and somewhere between 500 and 1,000 rounds.  If you have not taken one of these courses – the story you are telling yourself about your skills and abilities is simply a lie.  Please, set time and money aside and schedule a course for this year.

What this post IS about is what you need to do to maintain your skillset.  Just maintain . . . if you want to evaluate and grow your skills pick a set of coursework for the coming year that will focus on what you want to work on.  Myself for example – in March I’m taking a one-day Precision Rifle shooting course working on all the foundational stuff as well as spotting and wind calls.  Also in March I’m taking an Instructor Development course for handgun to get a POST Certified LE instructor certification as well as a course on the development of Force on Force coursework.  Finally, in May I’m taking a 3-day traveling Gunsite course for tactical shotgun.  That comes to 48 hours of instruction I am TAKING.  For instructors I find this type of annual schedule is imperative.  If we’re not growing individually as an instructor – how can we expect our students to?

But, on top of this is at least one monthly trip to the range where I set aside 100 rounds to maintain what I am learning and what I consider necessary skills as a defensive shooter.  I’ll miss 2 months because of family or weather or illness or . . . just plane “I don’t wanna go today!!”.  But, the other 10 months I’ll be out there working.  So, let’s talk about that, specifically . . . a day on the range with 100 rounds getting “good work done!”

For you – start today and place that order for 1,000 rounds for your EDC handgun or your home defense handgun.  My vendor of choice is and my preferred manufacturers are PMC, Blazer and Magtech.  I’ve had excellent service from Luckygunner and these manufacturers have not disappointed me for my range ammo.

Next – what do I shoot at??  Well, there’s all types of targets that I’ve used in the past – from 8-1/2 x 11 pieces of paper to steel.  I’ve settled on the LE Targets SWAT SEB training target.  You can buy 100 targets for around $35 which will give you 10 targets per trip – that should be plenty for the year.

There are other advantages to this target as well.  It’s obvious that the shape is human – and not a pie plate.  That allows you to become familiar with shot placement.  What does it take to make a headshot?  Can you quickly discern between a number, shape, center mass or pelvic girdle?  It is one of the elements in the mix to move you practice from just making holes on paper to preparing to meet a lethal threat.

What distances should you work at?  My recommendation is 5, 7, 10, 15 and 25.  Manage your magazines and ammunition so you use 3 or more magazines, perform magazine changes and – if you want – mix in some dummy ammunition to force you to manage malfunctions.  Fire 10 rounds at each distance.  Your course of fire would look like this . . .

“UP” command – 2 rounds high center mass box.

“Head” command – 1 round in the ocular cavity.

“1 or 2 or . . . 6” command – 1 round in the numbered shape.

“Square or Circle or Triangle” command – 1 round in each shape.

This is not the order of the course of fire but rather that commands given.  The commands should be mixed providing multiple engagements from each distance.

Once you’ve sent your 10 rounds down range from 5 yards, move back to 7 and repeat.  Do this process for 10 rounds at each distance until you’ve fired you first 50 rounds.  At the 25 yard line focus on just the high center mass box, you’re looking for an effective shot and, frankly, under stress most shooters will be good to hit the shooter at all, let alone a precision shot like a head shot.

Then, change out the target and repeat it again but this time starting at the 25-yard line and moving forward.  

Each engagement should begin from your everyday carry configuration taking into account the weather.  If it’s cold, you’ll have extra clothing to contend with.  Raining??  Same thing.  Warm and sunny . . . count yourself lucky.  

Finally, score your targets.  Any round touching the outline of the proper shape counts.  You’re looking for a minimum score of 80%.  I suspect most will find the 25-yard shots very challenging – keep working on them.  Remember to have solid fundamentals – stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, push out to your biomechanical stop, a smooth trigger press.  I’d love to say I’m a wizard to 25 yards – I’m not, it takes real work.  Put the time in.

So how do you run through this course of fire?  The easiest is with a shooting partner.  Have them call out the commands.  It’s easier if they write down each string of fire for each distance.  However, should you be sans shooting partner, there’s also the recording feature of your phone.  Record an entire 50 round string of fire allowing about 15 seconds per shot to accommodate your draw and your holstering after your shot.  Tell yourself when it’s time to move as well.  You may have to pause to accommodate the loading of magazines . . . or simply buy a couple more to smooth out the process.

Finally, after you’ve recorded the 50-round course of fire, plug in some earbuds, cover them with your ear-pro and do your thing.

This type of range trip typically takes about 2 hours for me.  This process is also adaptable to most indoor ranges as well with the exception that the engagement begins at the High Compressed Ready.  What you miss here you can work on at home using dryfire.

Which, BTW, should also be part of your mix.  If you spend a couple 15 minute sessions each day working with your draw, drive out and engagement of a threat it will pay great dividends in your range work as well as at a time where you are forced to engage a real threat.

One other caveat here . . . this type of work needs to be done with each firearm you depend on to defend your and your family’s life.  For me, that’s simply a Glock 17 that I carry every day – even as I type this post.  But, if you roll between a Glock, 1911, revolver . . . they you need to speed 1,000 rounds per platform.  Which is why I have a single platform . . . I’m relatively cheap!!

That said, I do also have an AR carbine in 5.56 for home defense.  And, I spend the same amount of work, with the same amount or rounds per month on that platform as well.  I do change the distances and spend 30 rounds at 15 yards and 20 rounds at 50 with high center mass engagements only at that distance.  I zero my “Patrol Rifle” at 50 yards which provides a very serviceable range of 50-200 yards should I find the need to reach out a bit farther.  The only HUGE caution is that as distances grow, the imminent threat that is presented diminishes quickly – remember that!

So, there you go . . . your homework assignment for the year.  100 rounds of good work once a month.

See you at the range!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Just the Basics - Ammunition Does Matter

This past week I made a range trip to brush off some of the rust in my precision shooting efforts.  The post is entitled “Evaluating Targets” under the “Training” heading.  I used a mix of Aguila ammunition that I had on hand.  I suppose you’d call this “plinking” ammunition.  My primary use is in by introductory handgun classes.  The targets are large, the distance are around 5 yards and the primary thing I am interested in is safe gun handling and very basic marksmanship.  The Aguila works just fine for that.

However, I will confess to some frustration that at 50 yards, 5 rounds per target, my group size was 2”-ish.  To tighten things up I picked the best 3 rounds (smallest group) of the five thus using a rough “average” to tighten up my group size.  With that caveat my group size was right at .5”.  Not bad . . . but the visual of the targets with rounds splattered around bothered be.

When I posted the article to a couple different Facebook shooting groups I received a lot of “why the heck did you use Aguila ammo for precision shooting???” type comments.  Heavy sigh . . . Because I did???  Anyway, I looked through by ammo stash and found 2 boxes of Eley Club ammunition.  I had shot up 8 boxes of a 10-box brick and found I was quite happy with the performance.  So, with a day filled with sun, no wind and mid-30s I thought I’d spend a couple hours at the range just to see how it performed.  I wasn’t disappointed.

First, let’s chat a bit on what goes into making a precise shooting round.  In a word – consistency.  The bullet weights of all rounds are the same.  The Eley Club round is lubricated ensuring consistent loading into chamber.  A precise power load each and every time.  A consistent case size and good application of priming compound inside the rim of the casing.  Do these things, exactly the same, each and every time . . . and you will have a precise cartridge that will perform exactly the same every time it is fired.

Accuracy is the other side of the coin and that is up to you and your rifle.

As a reminder, here is my target from the earlier trip with the Aguila ammunition.  


As you can see, the only way you can begin to detect the accuracy of my rifle and my shooting is by finding the best the shots.  Certainly not ideal and, for me, it was frustrating.  So let’s see how the Ely Club ammunition performed.


As you can see, the difference is stark.  While there are a couple groups that opened up, the precision and accuracy of each round is significantly better.  Other than making myself feel better, what’s the value in this?  Better, more consistent practice sessions.  If I always have to worry about whether it’s just crappy ammunition or a crappy shooter I’m not going to make much progress on all the little nuances of precision shooting.  But, if I have confidence in the performance of the ammunition . . . and I have some thrown rounds . . . I can begin to correct my problems. 

So, about this time my curiosity tickles me a bit . . . how would this stuff shoot at 100 yards?  It turns out that the Eley Club is actually designed to be a 50 yard round.  But surely I can push it out a bit, right.

First things first, the ballistics of the round.  There are any number of ways you can get from here to there – on-line calculators, manufacturer spec sheets, computer software, formulas . . . or how about “there’s an app for that”??

I have an Android phone and have chosen the Strelok Pro.  If memory serves it’s about a $7 app but worth every penny.  It’s rolled through 3 phones with no additional charge and is continually updated.  One of the latest is a Bluetooth link to the Kestrel family of weather meters.  It has a database of 1460 reticles, 3226 cartridges and around 1500 different bullets.  There is a free version that comes with a limited number of reticles, cartridges and bullets though you can define you own if you wish.  It’s enough for you to evaluate the product but for the price it’s a great chunk of software.

It allows you to define different rifles and attach to each their particular scope and the individual cartridge.  Switching between different rifles is simply a drop-down menu choice.  As can see in the image below I’ve selected the Ruger Precision .22 with a Vortex Crossfire II 6x18 44mm scope and it’s reticle.  Also selected is the Eley Club .22 caliber round.  I’ve defined the rifle zero as 50 yards. 

Insert strelok definitions screen here

This yields a couple useful chunks of data.  One a ballistics chart with the hold over required, in this case right at 6 inches.  And it yields an image of what you would see through the scope.  It shows a holdover of 6 MOA or two hash marks.  Since this is not precisely the reticle of the scope I started with a holdover of 2.  


The result looked like this . . .

Notice that the hold over seems to be good but the rounds are about 1.5” right.  That means I need to move the zero 6 “clicks” or 1.5 MOA to the left.  The results of that can be seen on targets 4 and 5.  Each target is 3” with a 1” center.  At this point I had a half box of the Eley Club left so I posted one more target seen below.

This was my first outing with the Ruger PR .22 cal at 100 yards.  The groups the small squares are .25” and I would estimate that all the groups are 2 MOA or smaller with a couple being sub 1 MOA.

Nothing to really write home about for real competitive shooters but I’m not sure I want to invest the time and money getting to a single hole.  I believe I can get to a consistent sub 1 MOA group and will explore some of the competition rounds that Eley makes at the suggestion of a number of very helpful folks on the FB groups.  Other than that, I’ll focus on the fundamentals, do my best to keep the flyers ammunition related . . . not shooter related.

And, I’ll take advantage of this trainer to refine my skill set so I can work with my RPR in .308 and push my range out to 800+ yards with is the limit of a local range.

Bottom line, this little trip again allowed me to learn, grow a bit as a shooter, confirm some of my hardware and software and demonstrated the real difference between the “cheap stuff” and the “good stuff”.  The “excellent stuff” might have to wait until Spring . . .

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Just the Basics – Your Patrol Shotgun

I’ve used the words “Patrol Shotgun” as part of my overall effort to move the mindset for new and inexperienced shooter from “target” shooting or “goin’ to the range” or, in this case, trap or skeet shooting to that of defensive shooting.  You are going to use your shotgun for the defense of your family and your home.  I suspect you won’t be putting it in a rack in your car or truck.

That said, the type of shotgun, the way you equip it and the way you train and practice with it would not change significantly from the way a law enforcement officer would.  Keeping all this in mind I want to talk about your Patrol Shotgun.  We’ll talk about the type of action I prefer and why, what equipment you add to it, types of ammunition and finally we’ll talk about training and ongoing practice to maintain your proficiency.  Feels like it may be a long post . . . so you might want to drag out some snacks and something to wash it down with.

When it comes to types of actions only two make sense to me, either an autoloader or a pump action.  I do not believe a bolt action, a simple single shot or double barrel break action make sense for a defensive firearm.  While it is always possible that a potentially lethal situation could be cured with a single round or two, or that you would have the time and individual discipline required to work a bolt . . . I prefer the simplicity of working a pump action or simply pressing the trigger again in the case of an autoloader.

In the choice between a pump action and an autoloader, if chose a pump action for the simple reason that there are fewer moving parts and I have a belief that in the long run a pump will be more reliable than an autoloader.

I have two Remington 870 pump shotguns seen here laying on the upper half of the photo.  The lower half are my two Patrol Rifles.  I took this while at a LE Instructor workshop I took in October 2019.  For me, any time I take a training course I take two nearly identical weapons, in the case of the photo both for shotguns and carbines.  I also had a duplicate Glock 17 as well.  The reason is simple – good training is expensive.  The course in October including ammunition, food and lodging cost around $800.  I’ve spent as high as $2,750 and as little as a couple hundred dollars.  And just as sure as I am typing this, if I have not taken a spare along my primary weapon will break.  And just like that, I am out the money.  Now the instructor might be a really good guy/gal and have a spare – but I don’t consider it fair to expect that they do – so I bring two of everything.

Patrol Shotgun

So let’s start there.  My primary Patrol Shotgun is a Remington Model 870 Express Tactical pump action 12ga shotgun.  It holds 6 +1 rounds of 2 ¾” or 3”.  The shotgun is typically stored or carried in “patrol ready” meaning 6 rounds in the magazine, chamber empty and closed, hammer down and safety on.  For sights it has a front blade and a rear Ghost Ring significantly increasing the accuracy at longer distances.

There are a couple other pieces of attached gear that I believe are important to make your Patrol Shotgun effective.

Side Saddle

The Patrol Shotgun is typically loaded with 6 rounds of 00-Buck Shot which would be 9 round .32 caliber pellets.  Additional ammunition is in the form of 6 ea. 7/8 oz rifled slugs and are stored in a Side Saddle either fed from the top or bottom depending on your personal preference, method of combat loading and mix of additional buck shot if so desired.  The Side Saddle provides you a total of 12 rounds to fix whatever problem is before you and is much more reliable than just grabbing a “couple extra rounds” out of a stored box and jamming them in your pocket.


Let’s start with the purpose of a sling.

Weapon Retention: It is a good way to make sure your Patrol Shotgun stays on your body.  If you are moving about your house or perhaps your property it insures that in the even you trip and fall or perhaps the intruder attempts to wrest your shotgun from you, that it is secured to your body.

Weapon Transition: Should your Patrol Shotgun stop working either through running out of ammunition or due to mechanical failure, it makes for an easy transition by simply using your support hand to hold it out of the way and then drawing your handgun to continue the fight.  Obviously all of this is dependent on the situation, what precipitated the engagement, whether you even have a defensive handgun on your body, but all that aside it allows you to keep your Patrol Shotgun with you rather than discarding it and moving on.

Load Distribution: Lastly, these darn things can get heavy.  While you may not notice the weight during a short encounter, should things drag on and you end up moving from one point of cover to another, it’s weight will eventually become an issue.  Or, should you take an 8, 16 or 24 hour training course let me assure you that by the end of the day you know you’re toting around more than a few pounds of steel and lead.

There are two primary variations of the sling – a 2-point sling and a single point sling. While there are multiple variations on these two themes, each has primary characteristics.

Two-Point Sling: The sling attaches to two separate sling-points on your weapon. One is usually near the rear of the stock and the second somewhere on the fore-grip. My personal preference is the Vickers padded 2-point sling. It allows for easy adjustment whether I want to snug my weapon to my body during movement or if I want to extend and engage with my weapon. The biggest advantage to a 2-point sling is that when both hands are needed, the weapon can be drawn close to your body so that as your move your hands are free, yet your weapon doesn't bounce off your thighs and knees.

Single-Point Sling: A single point sling attached to a single point on your weapon. This is usually to a ring located near the junction of the stock and frame. It typically has a “shock cord” feel so that while you can keep your weapon close to your body, it easily stretches during engagement without the need for additional adjustments. The biggest fault I find with a single point sling is the amount of movement of the weapon when it is released to hang free on your body. If you do this during movement, you are guaranteed some pretty good-sized bruises by the end of the day. I do not use a single point, nor do I recommend them.

Another big area discussion is “How the heck do I wear this darn thing???” Honestly, to me it’s as clear as day. You want easy access to your secondary weapon system. This is typically a handgun worn on your dominant hand side – therefore, I want that arm to have the most movement possible.  I wear either of these slings by putting my head and SUPPORT arm through the hole. This ensures that there are no obstructions on my dominant side between me and my secondary weapon system.


Another area of consideration are the sights.  The better the sight the more accurate at distance you will be.

My backup 870 simply has a front bead much like a trap gun.  I lay my cheek on the comb of the stock where my eye becomes the “rear sight”.  I sight down the top of the barrel and find the front bead.  Putting the bead in the center of the threat I have my sight picture and am ready to press the trigger.  This is the least accurate type of sight but given the typical range of 50 yards or less, it is typically accurate enough to get the job done.

Next would typically be the Ghost Ring.  The rear sight is simply a larger ring that you look through.  You center a front sight post in the middle of the ring.  Place this on the center of the threat and this becomes your sight picture.  I find this significantly more accurate and I find target acquisition quick and easy.

Yet another option would be a traditional front blane and rear notched sight combination.  Here accuracy can increase but, at least for me, target acquisition is slower.  This would be the most accurate if you’re trying to push beyond the typical 50 yard distance.

Finally, there is the holographic sights – the “red dot”.  These, once zeroed, are fast and accurate.  However, again given the distances we are talking, I find that I have no interest in putting one on my Patrol Shotgun


A weapon mounted light is simply a must.  It will simply not work well if you expect to be able to use a handheld flashlight and still be able to run the gun efficiently.  That said, a handheld flashlight is just part of my EDC kit.  I carry a Surefire G2ZX.  The thing I like about it uses a pushbutton on the butt of the flashlight so I don’t have to mess with switches.  And, it has a wrist lanyard so should I need to “drop it” to help run the gun, all I have to do is to let it go and do what I have to do.  This flashlight is used to help explore an area and to do a general search.  Once I need to transition to run the shotgun I can simply “drop” it and let it hang from the lanyard on my wrist.

As for the weapon mounted light, It’s tough to beat the Surefire TR-1 series.  I use the TR-1s with is a 320 lumen light with a strobe feature.  It also has a momentary on so I can illuminate, identify and then quickly go dark and move.  It also has a “full-on” should I need it and a strobe function that can disorient a threat.  All in all, it’s hard to beat this little guy.

So there you go, a basic Patrol Shotgun setup consisting of the Shotgun, spare ammo carrier, a sling, a sighting system and flashlight.  That’s all you need, keep it simple.


Let’s take just a bit and roll through some ammunition choices.

Bird Shot

No, just no.  In a lethal encounter you want something that will stop the threat.  While you may get lucky with bird shot – please, don’t depend on luck.  Take your defense seriously.  No bird shot.

That said, bird shot, particularly low recoil trap rounds are great for practice and learning to run the gun.  Perhaps the best way to explain the manipulation of a shotgun is to say it’s just plain clumsy.  It’s heavy, you load it a round at a time, there may be instances where you need to feed in a single slug round, throw in a quick round because you ran dry . . . and if you don’t spend some time learning to run the shotgun properly things may not end well should you need to deploy it to defend your family.

The course I took in October 2019 went through about a hundred of the low recoil rounds.  We shot against steel targets and the process worked great.  One thing to keep in mind is that, as with a pistol, you need to spend range time to keep your proficiency with your weapon.  A couple day training course becomes meaningless after a couple months if you don’t spend the time practicing your skills on the range – and low recoil birdshot is a great way to do that.


00-Buckshot consists of 9 .32 caliber pellets.  The typical range for Buckshot is 15 yards or less.  For most types of buckshot once you exceed that distance, they spread out enough that they are not very effective.  One exception is Federal’s “Flight Control” 00-buckshot.  While I’ve not used this myself, it was demonstrated in the coursework and it could keep all 9 pellets on a steel plate at 40 yards.  However, with increased performance comes increased costs – they are much more expensive than traditional buckshot.


The biggest issue with slugs is simple recoil mitigation.  They will hammer the crap out of your shoulder.  As a result, folks shy away from practicing with them.  If you look at the velocity of the Winchester rounds, you will notice that it comes in at 1,600 fps.  That’s a lot of energy.  In looking at different rounds for this course I found a 3-gun competition round that had about half the recoil while sacrificing some speed – down to 1300 fps.  Honestly, for a 50 yard or less shot, the lethality of the round would not change in any significant way while my ability to quickly provide a follow-up shot improved simply because the recoil was so much lighter.  These will become my standard defensive round though I will continue to load the magazine with 00-buck shot and the side saddle with the slug rounds.

Range Results

How do these rounds transfer to range performance?  This is my qualification target from the coursework I took.  The smaller holes are a result of the rounds of buckshot I fired.  It was a mixed course of fire requiring combat reloads and conducted from 15 yards.  Each pellet counted as an individual round.

The large holes were made by the slugs fired from 40 yards (the max distance we could get on their range).

A qualification score for an instructor was 90%.  As you can see the spread of 00-buckshot at 15 yards is well within the outlines of the target.  This should give you some idea of how this type of shot placement would affect a threat.

So there ya have it – my view of a Patrol Shotgun and the rounds I use to defend myself and my family.  I realize lots of folks have their own opinions – I’m always willing to listen.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Training - Target Evaluation

Rabbit holes, rabbit holes, rabbit holes . . .

The gun and training community is just full of them.  Latest handgun, carbine, precision rifle, grips, trigger, sights, magazines, bipod, scope, bullet, factory load precision round, powder, handload formula . . . . Been there?   Done that?

Add to that the latest training method, trainer, shooting school . . .

So . . . how is your budget??

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before I find myself on a precision rifle shooting journey.  My large caliber rifle is the RPR in .308.  Honestly, that’s pretty pricy to shoot and I’m not ready for the whole reloading rabbit hole.  So, I’ve working out a lot of the mechanics with the RPR in .22 LR. 

I did my first range trip with it in quite some time this week.  I am always working on the fundamental stuff . . . good cheek weld, good use of a rear bag, keeping the scope level, not wrapping my hand entirely around the grip by keeping my thumb alongside the grip rather than around the grip, smooth trigger press, managing my breathing, focusing on the crosshairs and not the target, working the bolt smoothly . . . I’m sure there are other things but these are a good place to start.

My distance was 50 yards and the target is one of my own design.  It has 12 2-inch individual targets each with a 1-inch center.  I typically shoot 5 rounds per target – a total of 60 rounds will fill out the target.  For me that’s about enough for one trip. 

After my range trip I posted some thoughts to my FB page and two different company pages – eIAft’s page (my company page) and NAPSI’s page (a second training company I am involved with).  These were my thoughts . . .


Quick range trip today with my Ruger .22 Precision Rifle. It's probably been 5-6 months since my last range trip with this particular firearm. I use it to work on all the "mechanics" for precision shooting, however, I just shot from the bench today.

I used a new target I whipped up. It has 4 rows of 2" targets each with a 1" center. 5 rounds per target (though I just cleaned out leftovers on target #12). Had an interesting trip, perhaps learned a few things.

Target #1 has the "Clean Bore, Cold Bore" round at about 1 o'clock (it's labeled). I had about 3 REAL flyers, one on 2, one on 3 and one on 4. They were certainly on me.

I noticed most groups were 1-inch-ish low and right. Finally before starting the last row I moved the zero up 1" and left 1". Holy crap!!! All over the place!! Through incremental adjustments I ended up exactly where I began - at the zero as it had been when I last shot the rifle.

With that I shot the final row. Notice the significant improvement with target 12 being a total of 8 rounds.

I have a whisper of a memory that says something like . . . to check zero before getting serious run a couple rounds through the rifle, move the turrets both plus and minus of the defined zero, then reset them to zero and check zero again. Something about re-tensioning the reticle comes to mind. If any of you real shooters out there have a clearer memory of this, drop a note. 

Bottom line . . . 52*F, sunny, no real wind, range to myself . . . and heavy snow due midweek. All the rounds were "OK" - it was not match grade ammo . . . so, I'll take it. 

Not going to be many of these days available for the next 6 months or so . . . heavy sigh.

A fine time was had!


I had some images from the trip as well . . .

Discussions that followed revolved around a confirmation of the +1/-1 turret turn after firing the cold bore shot.  And, a conversation with another shooter I listen to that prompted this post . . . just how am I evaluating the target results given that I don’t really know the consistency of the ammunition I was using – Aguila .22 subsonic Solid Point and some Aguila .22 Pistol Match Competition thrown into the mix for good measure. 

That is what I want to chat about here . . . how do you evaluate your targets.  And, is your evaluation reasonable?  Most folks are susceptible to self-criticism . . . I expect to make a single hole . . . every round of fire.  My reality differs from this expectation.  So what am I paying attention to, all the little nuances of making a consistent shot . . . or the fact that my group sizes are simply not 12 single holes?  How do we find balance so that we can give ourselves good, reasonable, solid feedback on the range and not just get grumpy with our results?

Let’s start by looking at a marked-up target.  In this target I circled the 3 best rounds out of the 5 I fired at each target.  As noted above there were 3 complete flyers.

So what can we derive from this?  Let’s start with target #1 and the cold bore , clean bore shot.  It was high/right but within an inch of the target center. The CB shot should be fairly consistent.  The remaining 4 rounds created one 3-round group of .5” and another ½” inch out.  As the round continues through the first 9 targets, I was able to create a group of an average of .52” for the three closest rounds and simply discounted the two farthest out.  Ya but, ya but, ya but . . . you say, why discount the remaing 2 rounds per target?  My argument in grabbing the 3 best is that I have no real way of knowing how consistent each individual round in in the box . . . so by taking the best 3 rounds I am trying to increase the overall accuracy of the box of ammo by only taking the 60% that were closest being the same.  Were I actually building the individual rounds I could guarantee the bullet weight, case dimensions, amount of powder, seating depth, cartridge length . . . to ensure that each and every round was as identical as I could make it.  Here, when I’m buying bulk ammo, short of buying match grade rounds, the 3 of 5 option isn’t a bad way to go in my humble opinion.

That said, by the time I’d gone through 9 targets, 45 rounds, the frustration grew to the point that I though perhaps my zero has slipped or the scope itself had some issues.  So, I re-zeroed the rifle.  As I was doing that, I realized that after my initial adjustments of 1-inch up and 1-inch left the results were even worse.  As I worked by way to a proper zero and suddenly realized I was back “home” to the zero setting on the scope.  That was when the memory light went off and the reminder to go +1/-1 on both the elevation turret and the windage turret after the first few rounds.  This memory was confirmed by a good friend who is a long-range shooter.  As we’ve often discussed, it’s always the little things . . . and there are a lot of little things.

With this “adjustment” made the last row went much better with 2 of the 3 groups coming in at .25 inches.

So, what conclusions can be drawn from this little exercise.  Well, first . . . have this conversation with yourself.  Create a range diary or a simple blog and put your thoughts down.  I always learn new things by having words move from my head through my fingers to the “paper”.  And isn’t that what a range trip is for – to learn things, to practice what we learn in training and to grow as a shooter?

Second, I am consistently shooting 1 MOA groups with this particular rifle.  I’ve search for a definitive expectation of the RPR .22 cal and can not find one but it seems that most are right at that limit (which would be .5” at 50 yards).  So, I seem to be shooting to the limit of the rifle which provides some level of confirmation that I am performing the foundational steps consistently.  THIS, this right here . . . is why I am doing this, to ingrain these small individual pieces of learning so that when I move to my full-size RPR in .308 I don’t need to spend a couple bucks a round to learn these things.

In my area I know two very fine precision shooters.  A fellow by the name of Dave Coots who is a bench rest international level shooter that has competed around the world and throughout the US.  He shoots 5,000+ rounds a year – all of which are handmade, including the individual bullets.  He does make a single hole at 100 yards.  The second fellow is Jim See – a national PR shooting champion shooter on the professional circuit.  He easily shoots 5,000 rounds a year, the vast majority of his rounds are also hand crafted.  Honestly, I am never going to shoot that many rounds annually, nor am I driven to do so as these two fellows are.  But, if you want to shoot at their level THAT is what it’s going to take.

That said, I want to be an above-average shooter.  I want to be able to shoot 1 MOA groups at 100 yards “out of the box” . . . and to do that it will probably take 1,000 rounds of .308 and a couple thousand rounds of good .22 long rifle ammunition a year.  That I can do.

Bottom line, make reasonable evaluations of your targets.  Don’t bang on yourself if your range trip isn’t up to your expectations.  Work to figure out the “why” and then move to the “how” to improve your shooting.

And as part of the mix of figuring out the “how” to improve, call on friends and shooters for a hand.  I believe that this in a unique journey that is shared by few.  But those folks just plain love to help.  I’ve never received a nasty comment or a laugh . . . but have always heard . . . “Have your tried this?”  or “When I worked through that, here’s what I did.”  We are part of a great community . . . and for that I’m grateful.

So, go forth . . . shoot . . . make holes . . . evaluate . . . learn . . . grow . . . and become the best shooter you can be.