Monday, September 14, 2020

Review - Jim Erwin - Defensive Shooting Tune-up 9-12-2020

I had the opportunity to take about 4-5 hours of instruction presented by Jim Erwin this past weekend.  Before too much time slips away, I want to share my thoughts on Jim, his skill as an instructor and the coursework as it was presented.

 Short answer . . . Get Some!!!!

 Shooting Performance Institute

But wait . . . there’s more.  Isn’t there always.

 A friend of mine owns a local gun store, Tactical Creations.  One of the firearms they are dealers for is STACATO, a Texas base pistol manufacturer that was born in the ‘racing” community but has since transitioned to the professional and civilian market as a carry gun option.  Jim is their regional representative.  Jim was coming for Open House the store was hosting and was to highlight STI products during that open house.  After that there was an opportunity to take a 4-5  hour set of coursework offered by Jim.  I was offered a table during the open house to present my coursework and also a slot in the course – I quickly said yes to both.

 Frankly, I had my doubts about Jim.  He is truly a been there – done that kinda guy.  75th Rangers, Delta, Executive Security overseas.  I have had some experiences with “elite” operators and sometimes they have a real problem dealing with us lowly civilians.  Would we spend all our time listening to war stories and being shown all these tacti-cool drills . . . or would there be something of value offered for the everyday carry kinda guy.

 First impressions didn’t do anything to lower my fears . . . he’s a good-sized critter and while pushing 50 he’s obviously in good shape.  Of course, he’s a “firearms instructor” so he’s sporting a “Lion Cut”, shaved head, full sleeve of tats on one arm and a half on the other.  Yep . . . it’s going to be a long day . . . and then he spoke . . . and the day changed.

 Yeah, I know, I’m a judgmental asshole . . . so sue me.  Not like each and every one of us hasn’t been judged or judged someone else.  It’s just part of life and especially the shooting community.  The trick is this . . . can you live up to what you are claiming you can do . . . and if you’re an instructor, can you really share the information you want to the students paying good money for your coursework. 

 As I said, the moment Jim said “Hi, I’m Jim” you could feel that there was a real person there and not just an image of an “operator”.  I listened throughout the morning as he spoke with people interested in STI products – how he listened to what they wanted, described his products, probed their shooting ability and problems they were having, while he offered suggestions as well as handling anything else they threw at him.  There was no BS . . . simply straight talk – one shooter to another.  It was refreshing.

About 1:30 PM I headed out to the range to set things up for him.  We were scheduled for around 200 rounds downrange and about 4 hours of work – it became 5 hours with just raw darkness stopping the range time.  In fact, the last shooter shooting his last set of drills was aided by Jim illuminating the target line with a flashlight. 

The session began with a safety brief, medical brief and Jim giving an abbreviated bio on his history and experience.  And that was followed by his general philosophy.  If I had to boil it down I would say is was . . . “do the basics, do them very well . . . and speed will follow”.  So, what did the basics consist of?  Let me break them down in the way that I took them – I’m sure Jim will offer correction if necessary.

 1:  Stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press follow through are the foundation of everything.

 2:  Malfunction clearing, magazine changes must be smooth and quick.

We spent hours working through number one.  The range was about 5 yards.  Our target was my favoring the LE Targets SEB target.  Our very first drill . . . all 30 rounds of it . . . were single round engagements – 5 rounds at a time – on each of the 6 shapes on the targets.  For each draw he was relentless on tweaking us from our stance, through our grip (I’ll spend a few extra words on this), driving to the target and transitioning our sight to the front sight, a smooth trigger press, follow-through in prep for a follow-up shot, and the a return to holster.  As I said . . . he was relentless – little words here, moving hands there, questioning, explaining, listening . . . for 30 rounds, one round at a time.

 During his startup of the class he said he’d recently taken coursework from Todd Jerett and that Todd had made an adjustment to his grip that had a tremendous affect on his accuracy . . . making sure the front-strap of his grip came down in the center of the Proximal bone of each finger on your dominant hand.  This is the bone immediately after the knuckle (moving towards the finger tip) on your hand.  They should all make contact with the face of the front-strap.  Ok, what the heck . . . I’m here to learn, why not try it.  Holy Crap!!!  My tendency to hit low-left with my G17 carry gun simply disappeared . . . instantly.  Holy crap!!!  Sure, sure . . . let’s see if it holds.  Well, let me tell you, it was rock solid.  If I had a good sight picture – I was golden with my trigger press.  In fact, honestly, I was really “on” dripping zero shots through the first magazine . . . 15 rounds . . . down zero.  “Bill . . . you’re not missing . . . shoot faster!!!”  So I did . . . just as soon as I saw the green dot of my Trijicon front post in the center of the target I pressed the trigger . . . and took about .3 off my shot time.  For the second magazine I dropped 3 I think . . . but I could “feel” them as I pressed and knew I had pressed early.  It was really something.

 Looking up and down I saw everyone move from “meh” on the first target to reasonably solid by the 6th.  Real, genuine, demonstrable improvement in a very short time.  One of the skills Jim truly posses is the ability to break down a fairly complex task . . . drawing and engaging a threat . . . to clear steps with an ability to watch and tweak each shooter regardless of their skill level.  He could find words to convey his thoughts.  You’d think that that’s an easy job . . . but if you’ve every taught someone something, you appreciate just how difficult that can be.  And with 6 individuals, 6 different skill levels, 6 different personalities . . . you can begin to appreciate Jim’s skill at teaching defensive shooting.

 Next up was what I called accelerated pairs.  Two rounds, high center mass . . . just as fast as you can run the gun.  This allowed him to work on recoil mitigation and again showed just how powerful the simple adjustment is my grip was.  I was still shaking my head at that.

 Next was a magazine full of mag changes.  Start with a single round in the gun and an empty magazine inserted.  On the “UP” draw and engage and do an emergency reload when your gun runs dry and holster.  Then, pick up the dropped magazine, execute a tactical reload, holster and stow the magazine.  Repeat on command until you run dry.  It was a very simple drill that let the shooter practice both an emergency reload and a tactical reload.  Again, Jim tweaked and changed and nudged everyone throughout this drill to improve their performance.

 This was followed by movement.  Turning to the left.  Turning to the right.  Turning to the rear.  Moving parallel to the line, engaging a specific target while squaring up to the threat and sidestepping either left or right depending on the direction of movement.  And finally, moving the firearm from one hand to the other, while moving and then engaging single handed while movement continued.

 Let’s just say it was a busy 5-ish hours.  Really good work was done by all.

 So in reflection, there are old sayings that are old because they’ve survived the test of time.  “Don’t judge a Book by its cover”.  While appearing to be a “tacti-cool” shooter, Jim is the real deal as an instructor.  Clear. Articulate.  Focused.  Solid material that is presented in an exceptionally clear and concise way.  And . . . he’s not afraid to laugh, crack a joke and be just one of the guys on the line.

 Jim, it was a great experience to take some coursework from you.  I genuinely appreciate your time and your feedback – I came away a better shooter – thanks.


Monday, September 7, 2020

First Aid Kit and Blowout Kit Updates

I've recently updated my Blowout Kit.  I took some time to make a video reviewing both kits as well as training.  For your consideration . . .

Here's a link to the video . . .

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Just the Basics – Cloth Covid Masks

With the “Karens” out in full force “mask shaming” everyone in sight . . . I just have to ask . . .




I suspect the answer is . . . “NO!!  But PUT ON A DAMN MASK OR YOUR GOING TO KILL GRANDMA AND GRANDPA!!!”


Heavy sigh . . . yet, that’s where we are.


I’m not a mask guy.  I will wear them in places I absolutely need to go – church, dentist office, Menards (since we’re having an addition to our home built), a Safeway in Rapids City SD . . . but otherwise, no – I’m not wearing one.  They simply do not offer enough protection to be worth while and, worse, the offer the ILLUSION of protection, so folks get sloppy about basic common sense actions they can take to significantly decrease their chance of getting CoVid-19 or any other virus for that matter.


Of course, the “Karens” jump on my thoughts about the crappy level of protection a simple cloth masks offer – and a deeper dive into that particular topic is the purpose of this post.   Have you looked at your cloth mask?  I mean really, really looked at it.  With the tools you have in your pocket – a flashlight and a phone – you can do a pretty deep dive into your mask’s basic construction.  If nothing else this basic knowledge may help you build a better mask should you truly feel a need to cover your face.  So, let’s take a deeper dive into cloth masks.


This is my mask.  I purchased three of them from a local woman who used a pattern put out by a regional hospital.  It covers well from the bottom of my chin to the bridge of my nose.  And yes, my glasses fog a bit when I breath.  All it all – great coverage and certainly a feeling that I am well protected from all those nasty viruses floating about in the air.  But . . . how much of that coverage of my nose and mouth are real . . . and how much of it is simply a feeling? 

First, let’s start out with what we are trying to stop.  Depending on the source you look at, the size of the CoVid-19 virus varies from around .1 um to .3um.  A “um” is 1/10,000 of a meter and is called a “micron”.  To give some size comparison the typical human hair is around 50 um in diameter.  That means that in the width of a human hair you could fit around 200 - 500 individual viruses.  We’re talking about something profoundly small.


Much is made of N95 masks.  These are masks specifically designed to block 95% of all particles .3 um or larger.  Note, this mask will only block CoVid-19 particles that are leaning towards the large size of their range.  Those leaning towards the small side may well simply pass through even a N95 mask. 


Here is one such example of a N95 mask – a 3M half-face respirator with particulate filters with N95 inserts on each cartridge filter.


So that’s what we’re trying to block . . . something very, very, very tiny  – unimaginably tiny.


What type of protection does cloth offer?  As with most things, it gets complicated.  What type of cloth, what type of yarn, what is the thread count ( the total of threads vertically – the “warp” – and horizontally – the “weft”), is the yarn coated, are multiple threads twisted together to increase the thread count, is it a simple weave or something more complicated.  All of these factors and a few more will play into how effective the mask has the ability to be.


Let’s keep it simple, my mask is a simple weave cotton fabric.  It does contain two colors of dye and has a thread count of approximately 150.  How do I arrive at this figure?  Simple, by observation.  I took the mask and a small flashlight.  Since the pattern on my mask is dark blue polka dots over a lighter blue fabric I focused on a single blue dot.  A measurement of that dot showed that its diameter is .25 inches.  Shining light through the mask and using my cell phone camera on the close-up setting allowed me to take a photo of a single dot at very high resolution.  I then brought that into photoshop, trimmed out the dot yet again to allow simple viewing of the dot.    The result is the image below . . . and now we have something we can work with.


If you pick a center horizontal row and count the warp threads and then the hole (generated by the weft thread) you will get a thread count for the .25” circle of approximately 38 threads.  Multiply that by 4 and you get a thread count of 152.  Using a bit of rounding, I would estimate that the actual thread count for this cloth is then 150 as I stated above.


So now let’s make some observations regarding the cloth under magnification.  The first thing that jumps out at me are . . . HOLES!!!  Lot’s and lots of holes.  How big are they??  Could a virus pass through them??  How can I figure that out???  An estimate is fairly easy . . . you know there are approximately 150 threads per inch.  So is .25 inches that means there are about 38 threads per inch.  Given the hole is approximately the width of a thread . . . the hole is .25 inches/38 . . . or .00658 inches in diameter.  What the heck is that in um???  Google to the rescue . . .

The answer is 167.132 Microns - about three times the diameter of a human hair.


OK, one step deeper.  Let’s go with the really big size of the Covid-19 virus and assume that all viruses we meet as we walk through the world are .3 um in size.  How many can fit through a hole on my little dark blue dot on my mask . . . just one hole . . . on one dot.


The size of the hole would be 27,889 square um.  If we stretch the estimate just a bit and assume each CoVid-19 virus is square . . . then our estimate becomes a bit easier.  Simply divide the size of the hole by the size of the virus . . . 27,889 sq um / .3 sq um . . . and presto . . . 92,963 large CoVid-19 viruses could fit through a SINGLE SOLITARY HOLE . . . on a SINGLE SOLITARY DARK BLUE DOT . . . on my mask.


Let’s assume my estimates are off by a factor of 100 . . . you know, the Dr. Fauchi model . . . that would knock the virus count for a SINGLE SOLITARY HOLE . . . down to just under 1,000 viruses per hole.


So let’s go with that . . .


Look at the mask . . . look at the number of .25” dark blue dots (don’t forget the rest of the mask, but for fun, just look at the dark blue dot).  How many holes in a single dot . . . just a sec, I’ll count them . . . be right back . . . ok, I’m back . . .  200 . . . 200 holes in my .25” dot.  So carrying my Dr. Fauchi – off by a factor of 100 – estimate to it’s final conclusion . . . my .25” dark blue dot will pass 200,000 viruses that are .3um in size. 


Now, take this to the next level and estimate how many viruses can pass through this ENTIRE mask – in either direction.


This . . . this right here is why I say they are ineffective.  Could a small portion of viruses be blocked?  Sure.  Hell, you could wrap your face is window screen material and block a few as well.  But is a cloth mask an effective tool to SAVE YOUR LIFE, AND THOSE OF YOUR LOVED ONES????


No . . . not in a million years.


I did say there are more effective ways to protect yourself.  There are.  Here they are:



If you’re sick . . . STAY HOME!!!

If you’re sick . . . KEEP VISITORS OUT!!!

If you’re sick . . . with the defined symptoms of CoVid-19

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea


If you go out, shopping, traveling . . . WASH YOUR FRICKIN’ HANDS – FREQUENTLY!!!  It has been posited that one of the most common methods of transfer of the virus in via fecal matter.  Think about that . . . did you hit the head while out??  Did you wash your hands THROUGHLY???

This . . . this right here will offer real mitigation to a broad range of viruses floating around out there in addition to CoVid-19.  Remember flu season is right around the corner.  Children are NOT DYING of CoVid-19 . . . but they die by the bucket load of the common flu.


OK, ok, ok . . . but you ARE A TRUE BELIEVER . . . your mask is your friend.  No worries, go for it.  And I mean that genuinely.  If your level of fear is high and a mask makes you feel better – I’m fine with that.  Of course, there are caveats that go along with wearing a mask.


First and foremost – don’t kid yourself.  The protection offered by a cloth mask is MINIMAL!!  Please, don’t treat it like a magic talisman and believe you are FULLY PROTECTED . . . you’re not.  Stop lying to yourself.

Your mask needs to cover your face from the bottom of your chin to the bridge of your nose.

STOP TOUCHING YOUR MASK!!!  Touch it only by the straps/strings/loops that attach it to your face.

DO NOT ADJUST YOUR MASK!!!  Get one that fits, put it in place, leave the damn thing alone.

If you do touch and adjust your mask – assume your hands are now contaminated . . . WASH YOUR HANDS FREQUENTLY.

Don’t stick your mask in your pocket, purse, glove box, console . . . or anywhere else unless it is contained in something – say a Ziploc bag.

Have a different mask for every day – and wash your mask weekly in your laundry.


And, if you look at these precautions and say something like . . . “Damn, that’s a lot of work, I’m just going to stick it in my pocket or purse – ta hell with that guy!!


Exactly . . .


As I have said over and over and over . . . a mask is a “Boppy” . . . a pacifier . . . something you stick in a baby’s mouth to make them feel better . . .


So, if you want to feel better and wearing a cloth mask makes you feel better . . . fine.


As for me, walking about during my normal day . . . no . . . I won’t . . .




Saturday, August 1, 2020

My "Daily Read"

I've had a number of friends ask me for a list of websites I read through on a daily basis.  So I thought I'd list them in a post and put a short commentary on each . . . 

The Gateway Pundit . . . This is probably the most "vocal" website  I visit.  That said, they seem to do a good job of ferreting out interesting stories and they always post the link to the original story.

Instapundit . . . Glenn is a professor in the University of Tennessee law school.  It is an aggregate site with reasoned comment on stories (and other permitted posters) find interesting.

Power Line Blog . . . Run by three attorneys they all offer solid conservative commentary on news stories of the day.

Latest Articles . . . Links to current stories as they happen typically by conservative members of the blog.

Real Clear Politics . . . the absolute best aggregate news websites on a host of topic headings.  I begin with politics but there are a number of additional offerings in the heading to the website.

Newsmax . . . A solid source of news articles from a conservative POV

The Federalists . . . They post articles covering a broad range of topics.

So this represents the start of my mornings when I go out and look to see what's happening in the world.  Obviously all lean conservative but they do not hesitate to link original liberal content as well.

Let me know what you think.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Range Trip - 7-17-2020 The range always teaches something

I spent the first three days of this week helping with a “Rifle Operator Course” for our local PD.  24 hours, 800+ rounds – it’s very comprehensive and provides a solid evaluation of an officer that is about to begin carrying an AR as part of their squad duty gear.  Of course, while you are helping teach . . . there’s no opportunity to send rounds downrange yourself.  And while I am confident in my skillset, it never hurts to follow up that confidence with a few rounds myself just for “holes on target proof” as well as a bit of polish.  So that was my task for this morning – evaluation and polish.

I set aside 100 rounds of .223 and 50 rounds of 9mm to work on both rifle skills and a transition to my carry gun.  As I’ve said many times, set the “ground rules” first, then shoot your COF.  For a hit to count it needed to be within or touch the line-defined specific shapes – high center mass box, pelvic girdle box, ocular cavity and then the 6 numbered cognition drill boxes around the outside of the silhouette. 

The course of fire for the morning was . . .
    10 single rounds high center mass box                                                   10 rounds
    10 single rounds ocular cavity                                                                 10 rounds
    10 “hammers” (think a fast accelerated pair)                                           10 rounds
    1 single round in each outer shape 1 thru 6                                             6 rounds
     5 failure drills – 2 rounds HCM, 1 round in the ocular cavity                   15 rounds
    15 single round engagements HCM simulating rifle failure                      15 rounds
    45 9mm rounds shot as a failure drill with 5 rounds to the ocular cavity
         5 rounds to “2” circle and 5 rounds split between the 3 and 4 box      45 rounds
     7 “hammers” to the pelvic girdle                                                              14 Rounds
     1  “Bill Drill” from 10 yards                                                                        5 rounds

The final round count for this portion is 80 rounds of .223 and 50 rounds of 9mm all shot from the 10-yard line.   For the transition drill I fired a single round to the high center mass with my AR and then transitioned to my sidearm – a Glock 17 – and shot a failure drill.  This was done 15 times for a total of 45 rounds of 9mm.  This left me with 5 rounds of 9mm in my pocket which I loaded as shot as the “Bill Drill” listed above.

The remaining 20 rounds were shot from a supported prone position from 50 yards and shot on the separate target in the upper left corner of the primary target.  Each square is 4-inches in size with 1-inch square in their center.

As the title of this post says, the range will always teach you something.  Today that lesson was . . . aren’t you glad you had backup irons??  My “duty rifle” has an older Eotech 517 mounted to it.  It had come up just fine for the coursework earlier in the week but today, even with the backup set of batteries I had in the range bag, it was “no joy”, it was not going to come up.  What an opportunity to work with my back up irons just to make sure that skillset is alive in well!!!  Yeah!!!

So that’s what I did.  I shot the above course of fire with irons.  The first 80 rounds of .223 and 45 rounds of 9mm from my carry Glock 17 produced a score of 86%.  Not the 90% I was looking for but well above  80% which is my minimum acceptable score.  And as opposed to the scoring on LEO range work, the rounds needed to touch or be within the boundaries of the scoring areas on the target and not just within the silhouette of the target for it to count for me.  Honestly, I look at this overall result  as doing fine on this run.  I can always improve but each range trip brings its own little issues.

However, looking at the final 20 rounds on the target in the upper left, I kinda lost my crap on that one.  My shooting position was 50 yards in a supported prone position – my range bag provided my support.  As you can see, the “precision” was fine with the groups being under 3 inches in size and they are separate and distinct groups.  Where I lost it was in the accuracy with my group centers being well left or above of the desired targets.  Heavy sigh.  So, when I replace my Eotech 517 this coming week, I’ll tweak the 50 yard zero on my irons a bit to bring that back in. 

All in all, a good range trip, some good work on transition from my AR to my Glock 17 and an obvious workout of my iron sights. 

A fine time was had by all!!  So – get out to the range.  Have you worked on transitions from your rifle to your handgun??  Have you wrung out your irons lately??  Have you attempted more precise shots at longer distances but especially within the 50-yard range that would be typical for home defense?  If not, schedule some time and some ammo to brush off the rust and work on the polish.  Remember, you simply do not get to choose “the day”!!!  It chooses you!!

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.