Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Training – Long Guns . . . and shooting the accurately . . . Part 1 – What does “accurate” mean?


Honestly, I’m not a “long gun” kinda guy, never really have been. I’ve used a .22 to hunt small game from time to time – squirrel and rabbit. I was issued an M-16 upon arrival “in country” in ’70 and only called upon it in defense a handful of times. I find no real enjoyment in the hunting of medium to large game, so I can’t say I put nearly the number of rounds down range with my long guns as I do with my handguns. Still, I’ll come close to 1,000 with my AP4 and probably twice that with my “Oracle”, enough to keep working on those particular skills.

The long guns I work with primarily are those I have chosen as part of my defensive arms “suite”. What prompted this particular post was a return to the range this past weekend to finish up the task of zeroing the scope on my AP4. My preliminary work was detailed in this post – the trip on 10/26/14 was to polish it up and then do some preliminary analysis of my accuracy with the weapon. And that prompted this “Part 1” post . . . What does “accurate” mean?

When it comes to shooting a firearm, and in that case, shooting both my AR4, a .308 and my Oracle, a .223 – just how would I measure the accuracy of the weapon and my ability to shoot it accurately? Someone will typically say something “well, just shoot a small grouping on the target – that’s accurate, right?” Well, yes and no . . . but let’s start there.

The engineer side of my brain kicks in about here – when I talk about definitions – so let’s use the typical measurement when defining a long gun and it’s accuracy – the MOA – Minute Of Angle. A rifle that is highly accurate is typically defined as a “sub-M.O.A.” rifle, meaning that at 100 yards, it has the ability to consistently shoot a group that has an inner diameter less than 1-inch. Where did that number come from?

100 yards has become an industry standard for part of the definition of M.O.A. – the distance from the muzzle of the rifle to the face of the target. To complete the definition, you must remember a few constants:

There are 360 Degrees in a complete circle.

There are 60 minutes per degree leading to (360 * 60) or 21,600 Minutes of Angle in a complete circle.

The circumference of a circle that has a radius of 100 yards is defined by the formula (2*pi*r) or (2*3.14*100 yards) or 628 yards or 1885 feet or 22619 inches.

To get MOA you simply divide the number of inches (22619) by the number of Minutes of Angle in the complete circle with a radius of 100 yards (21,600) and you get a MOA, at 100 yards of 1.047 inches – or 1.00 inches , close enough for government work! I whipped up a spreadsheet going out to 1000 yards for those who embrace your geek side. So now we have a unit of measure – the MOA.

So, why not simply build all guns to shoot at the sub-MOA level? It’s not that simple. While there are many elements that are part of the composite set that determines a shot’s final accuracy, the rifle – especially the barrel – cannot be manufactured to “perfection” each and every time. Very, very, very tight tolerances . . . but not perfection. Ultimately, the rifle is simply shot in a controlled environment, the size of the final group is measured and that becomes the accuracy for that particular rifle. Which will certainly change with time as the barrel wears or various brands and loads of ammunition are shot. For example, an AP4 was shot by the NRA museum and reviewed in January 2006. In that article, using three different cartridges, shooting multiple groups with each cartridge, averaging them all together, it was determined that that specific rifle had a MOA of 1.01 . . . at the end of that particular test. Meaning, it produced a group that was – on average – 1.01 inches in diameter at a distance of 100 yards.

This then, is the most technically sound measurement of the accuracy of a rifle – that rifle’s typical MOA when shot from a distance of 100 yards. Carrying that out farther, the implication is that, all other things remaining stable, at a distance of 1,000 yards that same rifle is capable of shooting a group that has a diameter of 10 inches (10.47198 inches to be exact).

The next measurement of accuracy is – what do YOU need it to DO in your specific defensive situation? That is my primary measurement when I consider the ultimate accuracy that I need to have with my defensive long gun. Frankly, from a legal standpoint, it’d be pretty difficult to explain your need to shoot a “threat” while they were 100, 200, 300 yards or farther away. Unless you were actively taking fire from them, it would be very tough to articulate in a court room why you needed to engage and kill that person.

That being said, as a husband and father who wants the ability to defend my family, I also see the value in being able to do exactly that – engage and stop a threat that may well be determined to do me harm – even from a very long distance away. So that is my “baseline” for defensive shooting. To be able to get combat effective hits – hits that do real damage to a threat’s ability to cause me and my family harm – from a long distance away – up to and including 300 yards.

Look at the center mass of a person - that’s about a 6-8 inch area where you can affect the pulmonary, respiratory and nervous systems of a threat’s body. If your defensive long gun can consistently shoot a 2 inch group at 100 yards, it will shoot a 4 inch group at 200 yards and a 6 inch group at 300 yards. I believe this should by your ultimate goal – to be able to consistently shoot a 2 inch group at 100 yards from a stable shooting position.

A third measurement of accuracy is – what do you want it to be right now, on the range, with the target before you. For example, I was unable to complete the zero of my scope the other day so on this range trip I got an additional 9 rounds to dial in the windage I again checked the accuracy. I picked both the “3 Box” and the “4 Box” and alternated 3 rounds into each quitting after 9 rounds to the 4 and 12 rounds to the 3. My goal – 90% “Hit Rate” or higher on the designated boxes. The reality . . . I was down 1 on each box leading to a “Hit Rate” of 93% on the “4 Box” and a 92% on the “3 Box”. I was “accurate”

308 4 box (Medium)   308 3 box (Medium)

If you look at my MOA – it’s about 2.25” – the boxes are 3.5” square. This would imply that going out to 300 yards . . . I need work. Don’t we all.

A forth measurement is what you MUST do . . . without fail. This qualifier typically falls to the trained sniper – that person who, on an average day can prone out, throw a round in their chamber and hit the “ocular cavity” on a threat – without fail. Honestly, that’s not me. I would call myself an able long gun shooter, capable of improving – but the skill of a sniper is a very perishable skill that must be honed frequently with the hope it’s never called on.

308 head shots (Medium)

That said, it doesn’t mean I would hesitate to measure myself against such a task. MY result? Out of 21 rounds, if I count any hit within the outline of the head, my ‘Hit Rate” was 95%. If I step up to a higher level – and focus on the ocular cavity – my “Hit Rate” drops to 62%. Would I take the shot if for some reason I was forced to in order to save another – yep, without hesitation. But we’ve discussed head shots before – they are much more complicated that simply putting a round in the threat’s head.

The final measure is simply rounds on the threat – period. If you hit within the outline – it’s a hit. This actually is the spec for organizations from the FBI to the military to define a “hit”. For me, with the .308, the only time I was shooting within the outline was when I was shooting for the head shot. But, if I mix in the “box scores” and the “Hit Rate” for outline I was down 3 for 42 rounds or a “Hit Rate” of 93%.

308 Target (Medium)

It’s typically at about this point that a “real shooter” starts to pipe up about their skill on the range and how my analysis is all off and his sniper friend could shoot me under the table . . . yadda, yadda, yadda. And that may all be true – I have no problem with a discussion on techniques, scoring, what’s a hit and what isn’t . . . so if you’re tempted to go there – throw up your targets, take some photos, post them somewhere and let’s compare, discuss and learn from each other. Otherwise . . . well there just isn’t much meaning to the discussion otherwise.

From a defensive POV, rolling through this type of analysis of your scoped defensive long gun is only half the discussion – how about your primary defensive carbine? Mine is the Panther Arms Oracle in .223. I have flip-up iron backup sights but my primary sight is the Eotech 517. Honestly, I can’t even see the numbered boxes, circles and triangles around the outline of the target from 100 yards. So, I simply sent 35 rounds down range center mass and an additional 15 rounds for head shots.

223 center mass (Medium)

On the center mass hits, there is a 6 inch square box that represents that area where a hit has the best chance of affecting the threats ability to continue the fight. Out of 35 rounds I was down 3 for a “Hit Rate” of 91%. If I broaden it to within the outline, my ‘Hit Rate” is 100%.

223 headshouts (Medium)

As for the 15 rounds that were head shots, if my definition of accurate is within the Ocular Cavity, my “Hit Rate” was 53%. If it is broadened to be within the outline, the “Hit Rate” becomes 93%. And finally, if I consider all 50 rounds, and a hit being anything within the outline of the threat, my “Hit Rate” I was down 1 for a 98%.

223 Target (Medium)

Statistics – you can make them say pretty much anything you want them to say. The same is true with accuracy and how accurate you are as a shooter.

Some thoughts . . .

Determine what the course of fire you will be shooting before you go to the range to do your long gun work. Have a plan! And define what “accurate” means. Will you be bench rest shooting or up close and personal? Do one or the other – not both, save the “other” for another range trip.

Don’t change your definition of “accurate” so you get a better “score”. Who the hell cares, own your day – praise yourself for a good day, good target, good shot and work on what you need to . . . work on. And we all have days where everything goes sideways on the range . . .

Document everything. It will catch drift in your sights, drift in your scope, changes in the load of your cartridge . . . a whole host of “little things” that make distance shooting similar to golf . . . it can be very trying on the range . . . yet . . . there ARE days when it all comes together.

Hone your skillset, you may well need it to put food on the table or defend against a threat should the wheels come well and truly off the cart.

So there you have it – now you know what I mean when I say the word “accurate” when talking about shooting my defensive long guns.

More to come . . .

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Training - But it’s just a BB Gun!!!


This past weekend was the “Spooktacular” at the scout camp. Its focus was an afternoon of fun for Cub Scouts and their friends . . . and to provide an opportunity for prospective Cubs to see some of the fun they can have if the join the scouting ranks.

There were a number of shooting sports represented – an “Active Slingshot” walk – tin pie plates attached to trees and bushes that the Cubs shot at with large dog food “ammunition”, an archery range and . . . the BB gun range.

It’s amazing the draw the BB gun range has for young kids – both boys and girls. At events like this, at day camps and cub scout events it is THE place they all want to make sure they pass through . . . multiple times if possible!

We set up 24 shooting benches and through the 5 scheduled 30 minute shooting sessions, we filled all 24 benches. We then had a 2 hour period of “open shoot” which typically saw around 1/3 of the benches full.

Our process is pretty simple really, and it focuses on both OUR main concern – SAFTEY . . . and THEIR main concern – THEY WANT TO SHOOT . . . LOTS!!! We conduct about a 5-7 minute safety brief – we cover the 3 primary NRA rules, cover sighting the BB gun, loading, cocking and the use of the safety. We make sure that Cub and parent get the briefing and then send them to their benches. The first round we do on command only – loading, cocking, shouldering and sighting, taking the safety off and shooting. After that we have parents help their Cub while our team walks the line answering any questions, helping them with their bench rest position and providing lots of “high fives”, back slaps, cheers, words of encouragement and – in general – making sure the cubs, parents, friends and a family are having a SAFE and good time.

But . . . below that . . . if you make a little effort . . . you can get real work done as well. Good, foundational work that the Cub will be able to use as they move through the ranks. And, you can open the eyes of many parents to the fact that then can share a shooting sport with their cub in the back yard, the basement or garage for not a lot of money. And that’s what I want to focus on in this post . . . the work you can get done with a $40 (or less) Daisy Red Ryder BB gun and a very new, young shooter.

Remember, they have their goal . . . THEY WANT TO SHOOT . . . LOTS!!! And you want them to as well, but safely. Once they realize that as long as they follow “the big three” safety rules, they’re going to be able to shoot . . . the door opens for the adult to get training done on all the other components of fire arms training – from nomenclature to shooting positions . . . AS LONG AS THE YOUNG SHOOTER CAN SHOOT!!

20141025_101049 (Medium)

So let’s look at the BB Gun as you would a traditional lever action rifle and see what they have in common. Each rifle has a:

Barrel, bore, muzzle, front sight, rear sight, trigger, trigger guard, cocking lever, stock, butt plate, comb and safety. Each has a magazine to hold additional ammunition.

Let’s compare the shooting process. With each rifle you:

Load ammunition into the magazine, cock the rifle to load a new round, mount the rifle to your shoulder with three solid points of contact, you get proper sight alignment and sight picture, you take the safety off and gently press the trigger to the rear.

The differences? One rifle can cost anywhere from $.06 per round to a couple dollars per round and sent that high velocity round well over a mile down range with enough energy to kill whatever it hits. To shoot it safely you need a clear range, solid backstop and good eye/ear protection. For indoor shooting it become much more complicated from the berm to the air handling system – and is typically limited to commercial shooting ranges that charge for membership as well as time in a lane. Let’s just say shooting a standard rifle is complicated.

A BB Gun? Their cost is in 10s of dollars rather than hundreds of dollars. You can buy 6,000 Crossman BBs for $8.50 where 6,000 rounds of .22 in October 2014 – IF YOU CAN EVEN FIND IT!!!!! – will cost you $1,068 for 6,000 rounds of Remington Thunderbolt. See the difference???

So, for Cub – or just young shooter – and trainer/parent – what’s the real purpose of range time? First – FUN!!! If the shooter doesn’t have fun, they’ll not shoot – period. And you have to want to shoot to learn to do it well.

Next, safety. The instructor/parent must make the creation of a safe shooter the primary goal! I can move a young shooter from being a safe – and crappy shot to a safe and good shooter over a couple of reasonable range days. However, a young shooter who cares little for basic safety – that’s a problem – for all of us. Insist on safety, correct consistently and constantly, expect perfection. After a very short time – they’ll respond and will integrate the RULES into their range time. That doesn’t mean they may not let their excitement over ride their brain . . . they’re kids. But the struggle diminishes and good habits build quickly.

Nomenclature is part of the “language of the gun”. You load through the loading gate, you align the rear sight with the front blade, they get good sight alignment and a solid sight picture, they firmly press the trigger, they follow through after the shot, they mount their rifle and have three solid points of contact . . . sound familiar? If you are training a new shooter, and the rifle they are using happens to be a BB gun – don’t change your words because it “isn’t a real gun” . . . if it “looks like a duck, sounds like a duck walks like a duck” . . . it’s probably a duck. Take advantage of that and use the right words to train your new shooters on everything from proper safety to how to mount the rifle to proper sight alignment/sight picture. And use the right words . . . their next trainer will thank you.

Yeah, yeah . . . I get it . . . but can they hit anything with just a BB gun? You bet, but remember muzzle velocity is only 350 fps, it was never designed to be a long range firearm. The recommended distance for a Daisy Red Ryder is 5m – just a tad over 16ft. For the shooter what that means is that if they do a halfway decent job of sight alignment/sight picture, they’re going to makes holes in the paper . . . and trust me, THAT’S what they want to see . . . holes in the paper. Real accuracy comes later, but putting a hole in a target – anywhere on the target – is a WIN!!!

As for real accuracy – limited to the Daisy Red Ryder – and considering we had put the target line at more like 25 feet rather than 16ft, I was still able to shoot a 3” group “cold”. I’ll take it.

20141025_180638 (Medium)

Bottom line . . . don’t overlook the use of a BB gun as a training gun for a new shooter just because it’s “not a real gun”. You can get tons of real work done with the lowely Daisy Red Ryder . . .

Oh, one more thing . . . safety glasses . . .cause you don’t want to shoot your eye out . . . right Ralphie???

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Just the Basics – Mounting a Scope to an AR-10 and Zeroing


Let’s spend a few lines talking about the whys, wherefores and “how comes” of even having a scope on your AR, the type of scope to choose, how it matches the ammunition you shoot and how this plays into mounting, zeroing and using a scoped AR.

I have two ARs as part of my defensive weapons – A Panther Arms “Oracle” .223/5.56 and a Panther Arms AP4 .308/7.62 NATO. I call both of these weapons “utility” weapons. I have found them durable, accurate and reliable with a very reasonable price point. There are cheaper choices . . . and oh so much higher priced options. That said, these are what I have chosen to defend my family with and I am happy with their performance.

I have not scoped my AR-15 – the “Oracle” - because I see it as a weapon that will typically be used within 100 yards. I do have an Eotech 517 mounted on it and co-witnessed with set of iron backup sights. Should the need arise, I can shoot a 3-6 inch group at 100 yards with either sighting method. However, I believe most of the work will be done within 50 yards and either sighting system provides more than enough accuracy for my needs. This is the sighting combination that will stay on the AR-15.

For distances past 100 yards, a sighting system that provides more assistance to eyes that don’t see quite as well as they did 40-50 years ago is a real help. Add to that a weapon that can consistently reach out and touch something or someone at greater distances has real value. Something that could be used for hunting larger game as well as slowing 2-legged threats may well prove useful should the wheels ever come well and truly off the cart. My choice has been the Panther Arms AP4 in .308/7.62 NATO.

I then began to look for a rifle scope that could easily be used for both hunting and personal defense, that was from a reliable manufacture and that didn’t cost as much as the rifle itself. I settled on the Nikon 3x9 Prostaff with a BDC reticle. The scope is designed for both standard velocity cartridges – 2800fps and high velocity cartridges – 3000fps. Again, while there are certainly scopes with much higher price points – at under $200, this scope does an excellent job.

The mounting rings I chose were the TMS Heavy Duty Tactical mounting rings to mount the scope to the Picatinny rail milled into the upper receiver of the AR-10.

To place the mounting rings on the scope I utilized a level surface – checked with a small level – to insure it was perfectly flat. Then I put the scope within the rings, attached the top half of the rings and loosely tightened the screws. I set a small level on the windage adjustment and rotated the scope until it showed level. Then I tightened the rings going cross-corner, front to back a little at a time. Final level adjustments were made and final torque adjustments were made to the individual ring screws and the scope was wedded to the rings.

I realize this is not “traditional” but with a milled Picatinny rail on the upper receiver, as long as the scope is parallel within the rings – it will be on the rifle. And, it’s a lot easier to handle the scope alone without having to do the same process after first leveling the AR-10 in a jig. The final results – on the range – assured me this method worked fine.

Level Scope (Medium)

Next I mounted the scope to the weapon, adjusted it front to back for a nice image when I made my cheek weld, and headed to the range.

AR 10 With Scope (Medium)

The ammunition I was shooting was Winchester 308, 150 gr Power Point, X3085. It’s a nice general purpose hunting round suggested for everything from deer through elk. It has a muzzle velocity of 2820fps, well with in the capability of the scope. Honestly, I have these because Cabela’s had a deal on 1,000 rounds of them a few years back. Still, good enough for any work I would expect to do.

I used a standard 100 yard target and started on the 25 yard range. Please . . . don’t be “that guy”. We’ve all seen him – sitting at the 100 yard bench with a brand new rifle, scope and iron sights “sightin’ in his gun”. And cursing a blue streak because he can’t find the paper, let alone hitting a standard 100 yard target. The purpose of starting at 25 yards is to get your rounds on paper to begin with, get a 25 yard zero, and then move to 100 yards. If you do that, you’ll be on paper with your first rounds.

Next, please – don’t just blast away, adjust, blast away, adjust . . . as in most things – there is a “method”. Personally, I use a “3-round” method. I shoot 3 rounds, adjust and repeat as necessary. You should easily be able to set your zero within 3 to 4 3-round groups.

Nikon Zero 25Y (Medium)

As you can see from my 25 yard target, out of the box my scope was significantly “low”. At 25 yards your “one click per ¼” at 100 yards” becomes more like 16-ish clicks per inch. So you can easily see should I have started at the 100 yard range, my rounds would have been low and well off the paper.

The above photo will show you the results of the process. Basically, I look for a 1”-ish group in/near the center of the target before I move to the next distance. As you can see it took 12 rounds. I can typically manage zero in 9 rounds, but I forgot the distance when I clicked off my first adjustment. Details, details, details . . .

Nikon Zero 100Y (Medium)

Next I moved to the 100 yard range. As you may have already anticipated, my first rounds were high - on paper, but a couple inches high. This is because if you zero at 25 yards, you will hit high at 100 yards. Conversely, zero at 100 yards, you will typically be a couple inches high at 25 yards . . . something to remember for your defensive carbine if you zeroed at 100 yards and attempt to make a head shot at 25 to 50 yards.

This process went quicker with my zero coming in after 9 rounds. It was a bit rushed as I was trying to make a meeting and “needed” to leave. The result can be seen in the group sizes. Still, group 3 is 1.5”-ish and I am OK with that. Total rounds expended - 21. It doesn’t need to take all day – or even more than 9, there are tools you can buy to speed things up. I could have bore-sighted it first with a laser round for example. But, I like a more traditional method so I’ll give up the additional rounds just for the range time.

The scope will also remain “wedded” to the AR-10. I’m not much for swapping hardware between firearms. Obviously I may need to re-zero with a change in ammunition, but it will be awhile before I finish off my stock, so I’ll be good for some time.

It is always good, before you head to the field, to insure your screws and mounting nuts are tight. A couple hundred rounds down range shouldn’t loosen things . . . but a quick check never hurts.

Zeroing a scope. It’s not rocket science . . . oh wait, ballistics actually is a rocket science . . . Take your time, have a plan, get a good scope and good mounting rings – and don’t be “that guy”.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Training - If you’re going to fight . . . don’t dance . . .


Take a look at the video first . . . then let’s talk. Please, watch it beginning to end, it’s a bit over 3 minutes.


Things we don’t know . . . what started the fight, could the older gent have avoided it or was he simply a target of a couple of young guys that just wanted to beat someone into the ground.

If the old guy “poked the bear” that should be lesson number one for all of us. The best way to win a fight – be it by gun, knife or fist – is to not get into it in the first place. It seems that more and more, especially in larger cities where crowds are common, a pack mentality develops quickly, selects quickly and descends quickly. Keep your frickin’ head in the game every day, keep as low a profile as you can and do your best to reduce your personal risk.

Regardless of comments made about this encounter, it was much more of a “waltz” than a fight. Most of the time was spent grappling with blows being landed to the body doing little damage. And, other than seemingly enjoying pounding on each other, neither the old fellow or the two young guys seemed to be doing any real damage. Eventually, they would have tired and quit (which is pretty much what happened). But a few moments that put an entire different spin on the attack . . . when the two young guys attempted to open the train door to throw the guy out of the moving car. As the saying goes . . . at that point “shit got real”.

So what lessons can be learned from watching this encounter? My take away is “if you’re going to fight . . . don’t dance . . .”

Help is NOT COMING: You’re largely on your own out there. I this case the young woman filming it saw it a pure entertainment. So while two young men pounded on a man twice their age, she laughed, giggled, gave running commentary. As did everyone else in the car. The day of the Good Samaritan is fading fast . . . in a fight against two opponents in a public area, you – and likely only you – are all the help you’re going to get.

Can you take the punishment: It may be that when confronted by a superior force your best option for survival – and I’m talking about simply going home at the end of the day – is to curl into a ball and suck it up. As the old knight said – choose wisely, because once curled up, your decision is made. You’ve pretty much pinned your life on your attackers getting bored with kicking the crap out of you and leaving.

Once “the shit gets real” you better damn well fight: You will note the old guy visibly “picked up his game” once he realized they were willing to throw him out of a moving car, in all likely hood killing him. I want you to chew on that just a bit. These two guys were fully aware they were being filmed, that the young woman had a running commentary going the whole time . . . and they were still willing to chuck him out of the car. THAT is the state of large parts of our country.

In a fight for your life, punching a guy/gal in the gut does little. If your life is on the line – you need to physically disable one of the attackers as quickly as you can. A solid blow to the throat, an open palm thrust into their nose, a thumb jammed into an eye socket (and I mean TOTALLY DESTROY THE EYE), a knee to the crotch or a good old hand grab – all can give you a few seconds time to repeat until one attacker is down. In this case violence – true violence – is your best bet to save your life.

Repeat with the second attacker – disable them to create time and distance to escape or to gather alternative weapons. This is a spot where anything helps – a tactical pen, backup knife, gun if you have it. Create distance and then look for an escape. In a car like this, you are simply “in it” until the next stop. And if you fight to put an attacker down . . . make damn sure he/she stays down.

This is also the perfect example of the need for more training than just time on the shooting range. Some level of combatives – so you have some idea of what your options are – should be on everyone’s list. It will also allow you to keep thinking . . . to keep your head in the game. A thinking shooter, a thinking fighter is typically the winner. Surrender to panic, to simply flailing about . . . and your day may not end well at all.

Bottom line – if you are in a fight against multiple opponents . . . fight . . . don’t dance with them.

Review - GALCO IWB Leather Mag Carrier


I’ve been carrying my spare magazine in my rear left pockets for a lot of years. And it assures me of one thing . . . I’m going to replace those pants after about 8 months of wear because there will be a nice little “wear hole” right where the baseplate of my Glock 17 magazine rests most of the time. As well as a distinct “wear outline” of the magazine just a bit like a “dip can”, though a distinctly different shape!

I’ve tried OWB mag carriers but honestly they print more than my Glock 17. So, I’ve kept my eye out for an IWB carrier that would fit my needs and be comfortable to wear. Let me define “comfortable” just a bit.

You always give up something when you choose to carry everywhere you possibly can. Types of clothing usually quickly dials into the mix. My days of tightly tucked in shirts are pretty much over replaced by outside the pants polos, henleys or cover shirts that simply don’t need to tucked. Sports Coats can also work, though they do a fairly poor job of covering an OWB holstered weapon.

So – these considerations led me to IWB carry long ago. Heaven knows there’s a host of IWB holsters on the market today, made of a mix of material yet . . . I migrate towards tried and true materials so my choice of a holster material for IWB has always been leather. I’ve made no secret of my fondness for Blackhawk’s leather IWB holster. I probably have well over 5,000 draws from it and it meets all my specs. It has good retention, is very concealable and . . . after the first minute or two of wear, I simply forget it’s there. Over years of use and wear its comfort is simply unmatched by any other holster I own.

And THAT is the type of comfort I am expecting from my IWB magazine carrier.

About 2 months ago I ran across GALCO’s leather IWB magazine carrier at a local gun store. I wasn’t too impressed at first sight. The leather was porous, it didn’t seem all that “special” and a single under the belt clip held it in place. Still, it was the closest to what I’ve been looking for to date so I thought I’d give it a try . . . pretty happy I did.

Packaging (Medium)

As you can see, it’s a simple design with a leather pouch and a molded plastic clip – nothing tricky. And it does a fine job of securely holding my Glock 17 spare magazine as well.

Magazine and Carrier (Medium)

Magazine in Carrier (Medium)

Once clipped in place at my 8 o’clock it rides essentially where my magazines have always been without trashing my pants pocket.

Carrier in place (Medium)

The leather is fairly soft and has worn to a comfortable condition in only 2 months of daily use. And, though I questioned the porous nature of the leather, I find that helps the carrier grip my clothing better thus making the draw of the spare magazine quite easy.

It fits snuggly with the bottom of the magazine just over the belt line which also makes grasping it very easy and providing excellent concealment.

So, after just 2 months of carry – I’m calling it a “keeper” and thought I’d share a review just in case anyone else has been on a quest to find a good IWB magazine carrier.

A link to the Galco carrier at Amazon can be found here.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Survival - Fire Starters - Waxed Discs


I have a personal rule . . . always have three ways to start a fire on your body at all times. My personal choice . . . a small BIC lighter, a striker and ferrous rod and a Fresnel lens in the credit card pocket of my wallet. These are with me every day . . . always . . . without fail.

While “survival” training can have tremendous value as well as being a lot of fun . . . the reality is that in a real survival situation you want to give yourself every chance you can to get home at the end of the day/week or whenever you dig yourself out of the “hole” you’re in. Being prepared with both knowledge and gear does a great deal to allow you to focus at the problem at hand rather than trying to tamp down the panic that naturally occurs when a person’s whole world suddenly goes sideways.

Fire is one of those tools that provide you a tremendous advantage in surviving. It can provide the raw comfort most of us find just sitting and staring at a burning fire. It can purify water, cook food, provide warmth, signal our location for rescue . . . it’s a very versatile tool.

As befits such a tool, there is a great deal of energy spent teaching folks how to generate the spark that heats the tinder that sparks that first glimmer of fire that starts the kindling that ignites the fuel . . . and I have absolutely no issue with learning those skills . . . none at all. But . . .

What if you took a couple precautions, integrated them into your lifestyle and worked with them to give you a much better chance at starting your fire in the first few minutes rather than the soul-draining amount of time we have all taken while working on our bow drill methods? Hence, the three ways to start a fire that lives on my body each and every day. (Yep, even those days you can find me in my best suit as well!)

Still, given the leg up those three tools give me in starting a fire – there may well be times that they’re not enough. It’s wet . . . it’s profoundly windy . . . wood is available, but most of it is truly damp . . . we’ve all been there . . . done that. So what I want to share in this post is one of my additional fire starter tools that makes life much easier, let’s me focus on more significant issues than generating a glowing coal or finding bone dry wood, and takes next to no space in my gear . . .

Waxed Discs . . .

I start with simple materials . . . make-up removal pads (the dry, thick cotton, textured kind), a block of paraffin and a medium sized can to act as a double boiler. Remember, paraffin vapors are flammable . . . DO NOT melt the block over direct heat, use a double boiler setup.


The preparation is profoundly simple:

Melt the paraffin in the double boiler


Remove the double boiler – the boiling/hot water will keep the paraffin melted while you soak the pads in the material one at a time.


Remove each soaked pad and lay it out to cool and harden


·Place the waxed discs in a ZipLoc for inclusion in your gear.


It’s that simple. I’ve use this process for almost 20 years. One of these discs will burn for well over 15 minutes – enough to start pretty much any type of tinder/kindling you want. And, they weigh virtually nothing, take little space and last forever.

And, when you need a little extra boost building your next fire – use one of the waxed disc – or even a partial disc, to get your fire up and running in a much shorter amount of time!


So, if you’re looking for something to throw in your kit to better your odds when things go sideways . . . or just plain make the fire building process a heck of a lot easier – give these a try – I think you’ll like ‘em!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Training – Training Partners . . .


It’s April-ish, Susie and I are in line at Subway grabbing a quick lunch before she heads off to work. Randy and his wife walk in and get in line behind us. He’s a retired Marine and a police officer for a city to our south. We’ve talked a few times – mostly just hellos. I’d been looking for a training partner for the range and he keeps popping into my head so I ask him . . . “Randy, would you be interested in training together sometime? “ He pauses – “I’ll have to see how my shifts work out, give me a call.”

It’s the last day of September now (where the hell did Summer go???), and I see him pop up on Facebook last night. I drop a quick note . . . “Would you like to hit the range tomorrow?” The reply is pretty quick . . . phone number and a “Sure, call me when you want to head out, it’s my “weekend” “. And there we are – nearly 5 months later and we’re finally going to hit the range . . . damn, shoulda done this much earlier!!!

So why a training partner?? Heck, I have audio files of drills, a fairly flexible schedule that lets me hit the range on a regular basis . . . why bother with trying to find a training partner?

There’s a lot of reasons . . . let’s chat about them for a bit.


Yep, safety. As you grow as a shooter, as you push your limits . . . you . . . push your limits. At the very edge of your ability is failure. Failure is a good thing – it points out your weak points, leads you to solutions . . . but failure is also where true danger lurks as well. Pushing your draw stroke to the point of failure may end with a round in your thigh. Moving “off the x” at the edge of your limits may well end in a crash and burn with a loaded weapon in your hand. Bottom line, it’s nice to have a training partner to pull you butt outta the fire! Oh, and make damn sure your Blow Out Kit is right on the firing line with you!!

Second set of eyes

You make mistakes. As the shooter it can be impossible for you to see problems, and an extra set of eyes are a great tool to move your skillset forward. That said, it helps a great deal if the eyes are knowledgeable, that they can spot what’s off and can help you diagnose your issue and help you fix it.


Like I said, I’ve got a number of audio drill files loaded on my smartphone. And, I have a Bluetooth ear piece that fits nicely under my “ears”. I can bring up the file, press play, drop the phone in my pocket and simply run the drills. But . . . I built the drills . . . and after a few runs through, I know what’s coming. With a training partner we can call the drill as we go. We can increase speed . . . slow it down . . . vary it . . . essentially call whatever we want. And variety will stretch you as a shooter, help you grow and make you better.

I got to the range a bit early, set up the targets, loaded up three magazines and waited for Randy to come. Marine . . . agreed on time . . . and he showed up on the dot . . . why am I not surprised.

When you head out to the range – have a plan. Don’t just make holes – practice with purpose. So, we chatted and asked him what he usually worked on when he went to the range. He confirmed what I have known, but it’s still surprising to me . . . police officers spend very little time on the range. He has to qualify twice a year, they get 100 rounds for practice and then shoot the qualification course. He and his fellow officers are not provided any training ammunition at all and range time outside of qualification is simply “on them”. I knew that . . . but it was still disappointing that officers in our area get so little support.

We chatted about what we wanted to work on. I typically do “balance of speed and precision” drills. “UP” – multi round engagement center mass. A called number – a single round on the shape with that number in it. A shape and side – single round to that shape. Simple calling out a shape – a round to each of the shapes, one on each side of the target. Each draw is from concealment, three magazines loaded with 4-6 rounds to insure reloads. The engagement ends with a detailed scan and assess followed by a holstering my weapon . . . REMEMBER, YOU HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD TO REHOLSTER.

Since we’d not trained together, he has no idea whether I can shoot or not and I don’t know how he’s going to react to the drills, we just followed the above formula. I gotta say . . . it was a great hour-plus on the range. After the start-up dust was knocked off – we both smoothed out and got some good work done!

2014-09-30 17.47.44

As we picked up and packed up I asked if he was interested in doing it again. A “Yep!” quickly followed. Of course, it’s fast approaching our fall rainy season and winter . . . I asked him how he felt about training in the rain. The “Marine” smiled back . . . “Been wet before Bill!”

It’s gonna be a fun fall and winter!

If you’ve never tried a training partner . . . try one! And I don’t mean just going to the range with a bud and making holes. I mean going to the range, with a plan, with a purpose and work with your partner to get real work done! A training partner can bring a lot to your range trip – and you will bring a lot to their trip as well!