Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review - Rangemaster Tac Conference 2015


Picture your dining room table, with the family gathered around for Thanksgiving dinner. Spread before you is a traditional meal – turkey, dressing, cranberries, potatoes, pies, green beans, traditional family specialties, deserts . . . a meal that will leave you an a tryptophan and carb coma on the living room floor while you watch the afternoon football games. And while you try your best to not gorge yourself – you fall prey to all the good food and simply stuff your face . . .

That is the Rangemaster Annual Tactical Conference in a nutshell. A “meal” of some of the best trainers in the country spread across 3 days from 8AM until 5PM each and every day. Allow me to say . . . it was delicious!

The three days covered 38 topics and provided over 70 hours of instruction including classroom lecture, FOF and live fire on the outdoor range. Classes were spread between two classrooms, two indoor ranges and an outdoor range. To see all the coursework that was covered, you can view and download the 2015 schedule here.

The process of selecting what to attend was particularly frustrating – I found I wanted to go to about 80% of the offered material. Obviously that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I intended to focus on shooting coursework. This worked well for precisely one course block, the very first block on Friday. By the end of the 3.5 hour block the ground was covered in ice, heavy rain and sleet was falling and the rest of the range day was canceled. While Saturday was much warmer – sleet had turned to rain with the day’s tally at well over an inch again canceling the day’s range work. The weather had cleared by Sunday but other classroom material put the kibosh on additional range time. So, while getting one solid 3 hour block in on Friday, I transitioned to classroom material which turned out to be a great choice as well. Let me roll through the sessions I went to with my thoughts.

My Block 1 – 3 hours – Heightened Gun Handling

Instructors: Shane Gosa is a Georgia POST certified general and firearms instructor, and Georgia Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors executive board member. Lee Weems is the Chief Deputy of the Oconee County Georgia Sheriff’s office, a certified police firearms instructor and Georgia POST general and firearms instructor, and a Georgia Association of Law-Enforcement Firearms Instructors board member.

Course Description: This block of instruction will focus on the use of sound judgment while involved in defensive shooting scenarios. While knowing how to shoot is important, so is knowing when to and when not to shoot. This class will give you alternative ready positions and siding/indexing methods to use in high stress or densely situations. You will learn how to maximize your ability to stay alive while minimizing liability and threats to innocent persons. This class is based off of one designed for peace officers and draws from the International Association of Chiefs of Police model policy for the use of force.

All Rangemaster range work begins with accuracy first. All shots to the target were to be delivered as precise shots. We began with a single pair center mass and moved through multiple engagements center mass, a single round to the head and various cognition drills involving shots to called numbered / colored / or “math problem” drills requiring mental calculations before shooting the designated target area.

Also included was a moving 3 dimensional target requiring a headshot on a hostage taker holding a small child and surrounded by friendlies.

It was a great course to begin with, did a good job of getting rid of the first day jitters and presented some of the latest material from the law enforcement / armed citizen community.

The only downfall here was the weather. By the end of the range block we were wet, getting more than a little chilly and nearly had to crawl out of the range pit because the walkways were simply too slippery to stand up on. It was to be my first and last shooting block of the conference – but one I truly enjoyed. Here is my target for the day . . .

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My two flyers up by the “2” Circle were support hand shots while the two outside of the center box were simply sloppy shots. As I said the emphasis was on accurate shots only, period, explanation point! I obviously have more work to do.

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My Block 2 – 2 hours – Gunfight Video Study

Instructor: John Murphy is an experienced and talented trainer with a broad tactical education and actual field experience, including ten years with the Marine Corps. He now operates FPF Training in Virginia.

Course Description: In this session, John will teach how to incorporate the now ubiquitous surveillance videos into training programs for instructors or individuals. His goal is to facilitate the initiation of action/speed through Recognition Primed Decisions. He will relate the methodology we use to analyze post-IED attack Jihad footage and apply that to self-defense incident footage. This is a method of "gaining experience" without getting shot and giving people the capacity to speed up their decision-making process to take prompt, decisive, and CORRECT action. John will also discuss the limitations of video as a training tool and the dangers of having too much of a "canned" response. The latter part will be illustrated by using dash-cam footage from an unfortunate shooting that took place in South Carolina.

We are awash in multimedia information – from cellphone videos, to dash cams, to body cams, to surveillance video to news reports. We are under constant observation as some level 24/7. There is good news and bad news in this. For us, as armed citizens, the good news is that much of the violence that occurs today is recorded and available for review and to learn from. John provided a number of methodologies to capture, review and to evaluate video information that allows us to see what went wrong during various violent attacks and those times when things went the defender’s way.

One of the most interesting videos simply showed raw street violence with one individual running from one person to another bashing them over the head with a shovel. His purpose in showing this? He finds the majority of folks that come to his class have little understanding what simple, raw violence even looks like. It’s a sobering lesson for many.

My Block 3 – 1.5 Hours – Defining the Threat

Instructor: Tom Givens has been carrying a gun professionally for 44 years, teaching firearms and tactics for 35 years, the last 19 years full-time. He has been certified as an expert witness on firearms and firearms training in both state and federal courts all over the US, is the author of five published textbooks on the subject and over 100 published magazine articles. He holds a Master rating in three IDPA divisions and holds instructor certifications from numerous organizations including the NRA LE Division and the FBI.

Course Description: This is a lively PowerPoint presentation going into some detail about how to set up a defensive firearms training program for private citizens and others who go armed in plain clothing. Much use is made of data from over 60 Rangemaster student involved shootings plus data from the FBI, DEA, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and other sources.

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Tom was our host for the weekend. The focus of the program was to differentiate the training requirements for the armed citizen as opposed to military or law enforcement shooters. This then helps focus the material a civilian shooter should focus on and refine. He used a combination of federal data and Rangemaster data to draw a number of conclusions. Bottom line, focus on the basics and getting accurate hits . . . not the tacticool training.

My Block 4 – 7 hours – Performance Under Fire Part 1&2

Instructor: John Hearne has been a law enforcement officer since 1992, a Rangemaster staff instructor since 2001, and a serious scholar of self-defense for many years. He holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Research Methods. John has trained multiple times at Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, the Rogers Shooting School (to name a few), working with trainers such as Louis Awerbuck, Ken Hackathorn, Pat Rogers, Larry Vickers, Scott Reitz, Bruce Gray, Todd Green, and more. He is a Rangemaster-certified Advanced Firearms Instructor. John’s full-day training segment is a condensed presentation of the ongoing data collection that he has pursued over his career.

Course Description: This cornerstone extended training session is the center piece of the conference. John’s lecture series is the culmination of several years of research into who wins gunfights and who loses, and how their prior training affected the outcomes. Training psychology and current theories of adult skill learning and decision making are examined in detail with an eye toward devising a more effective training program for those who go in harm’s way. Due to the length and intensity of this presentation, it will only be offered on Saturday (Session A from 8am to 12:30pm; Session B from 3pm to 5:30pm).

This was probably the most valuable block of the conference. Starting from the very beginning of the human’s existence to today John evaluated how we got to where we are and what this means as far as the human’s ability to fight, how we react physically and mentally and how we can make this all work to our benefit. 300 slides, 7 hours all presented by a self-professed research geek with a Master’s Degree is the research sciences. This is one of those sessions that a person simply digests over a long period of time. He offered a great handout with each of his slides presented . . . I’ve got more than a little review to do.

My Block 5 – 1.5 hours – Court Proofing Self-Defense

Instructor: Marty Hayes is a former police officer with many years of law enforcement experience and a degree in law. He founded the Firearms Academy of Seattle, a nationally recognized firearms school in Washington. Marty is the president of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network (ACLDN) and a frequent expert witness in legal matters pertaining to firearms use. The ACLDN is committed to the legal defense of citizens who are forced to use lethal force in legitimate self-defense. Marty is a published author and a firearms instructor, certified by numerous organizations including the NRA, Massad Ayoob Group, and Rangemaster.

Course Description: This presentation will examine the actions a lawfully armed private citizen can take before a critical incident in order to forestall future unmeritorious claims and charges. Marty will discuss training, equipment, and personal lifestyle adjustments that can keep you out of trouble in the event that you're forced to use a firearm in self-defense.

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I’ve written on this topic before and I was nice to have some verification that I was on the right track. Marty reviewed everything from how to document your training and range time to some solid advice on what to do should you ever be involved in an actual shooting. He recorded the entire lecture and will be providing it at no cost via YouTube. When it is edited and complete, a link will be provided on the ACLDN website.

This is information every armed citizen should be aware of. If you carry for personal defense now, today, this very moment you should begin to get your legal defense in order – because after a shooting you world will turn to crap in a very big hurry!

My Block 6 – 2 hours Training / Reality Mismatch

Instructor: Gary Greco is a recently retired career officer from the U.S. intelligence community. He specialized in counter-terrorism with service in Lebanon, Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In his last assignment, he served as the Senior Intelligence Advisor to the Commanding General Joint Special Operations Command. He has been heavily involved in firearms and tactics training for many years. From a teenager, he was lucky enough to study weaponcraft under long forgotten firearms instructors Major Larry Thorne, Ambassador John George, Police Officer Brian Felter and Korean War Veteran John Pepper. Additionally, Gary was a founding member of a self-supported training and study group in the Washington, DC area comprised of local law enforcement, federal agents, military personnel, U.S. intelligence professionals, and concerned citizens that have now trained together on a monthly basis for over twenty years.

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Course Description: This presentation will examine modern firearms training and explore the appropriateness of TTPs and weapons for private citizens. Discussion will also enter into possibly controversial topics of your training resume, the development of fantasy and gamification of the firearms training industry, realities of the criminal justice system, and crossing personal Red Lines and Stupid Lines. Additionally, we will discuss weapons, caliber, tactics and mindset that participants in the recent Global War on Terrorism have successfully employed. The session will also take a realistic look at the current threat to the U.S. posed by terrorists.

Probably the most interesting block of the weekend. Gary has the real world type of experience few have and few physically survive. We are faced with a broad range of threats that we need to consider and he did a “deep dive” on a broad range of topics. I’m not sure where the average citizen would find this type of information, yet here I was receiving they type of intel briefing few in our nation and government receive. More than interesting. And a reminder that the world continues to be a dangerous place.

My Block 7 – 2.5 hours – Secrets of Successful Gunfighters

Instructor: Darryl Bolke retired from a Southern California police department as a Sr. Corporal after 19½ years as a full time officer due to injuries sustained during a violent on-duty confrontation. He was a Firearms Instructor and Armorer for the Special Weapons and Tactics Team for 17 years and the primary instructor for all firearms systems used by his agency. He also provided mandatory firearms training for the fire department Bomb Squad and Arson investigators. He assisted on the investigation of over 75 officer-involved shootings, assisting the administrative investigation team with the firearms portion of these investigations. He has provided expert testimony on firearms and police tactics in numerous court cases.

COURSE Description: This class will center on training lessons learned in police agencies with highly successful street records, including Darryl’s former department, the LAPD Metro and SWAT units (with whom he has trained extensively), and other agencies that share a similar approach to training gunfighters. Actual shooting incidents will be studied, along with the implications from the training of the officers involved.

We can learn a lot from “winners”. Why do certain law enforcement officers, who work some of the most dangerous areas of the country, have a propensity to win their fights. The short answer – rigorous training. Quick, accurate shots end the fight. Period. Darryl reviewed 4 cases from his own time on the force in detail, detailed his training regimen and how we, as armed citizens, could adapt that type of training to insure we are prepared to win the fight should one come our way.

My Block 8 – 3 hours - The Five Ws of Risk

Instructor: William Aprill possesses a rare combination of different types of experience. He has worked in law enforcement, is a seasoned competitive shooter, has an advanced rating from the famed Rogers Shooting School, and is a licensed psychologist. He has trained extensively with numerous shooting and tactics schools and holds an Advanced Instructor certification from Rangemaster.

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Course Description: Techniques, tactics, and procedures for the active, emergent context of violent assault are as common a topic as the weather, it seems. Abundant material on the aftermath of this sort of event is also available. However, the preparatory period, what Craig Douglas has referred to as the pre-kinetic phase of such encounters, is given limited, if any, attention by the vast majority of erstwhile defenders. This presentation will review common errors made by practitioners as they attempt effective preparation for defense against violent aggression as well as common pitfalls and limitations in thinking about lawful violence. Attendees will also be exposed to a programmatic method for undertaking the pre-need decision-making that will underpin a sound self-defense and survival mindset.

The bottom line of this session was – where to the street predators come from? How can we categorize them? How can we defend against them? His parting comments brought the entire weekend into focus . . .

“When you leave here today, right now . . . you will be in the “pool” with them.”

A sobering thought.

And the conference ended. My tally? 22 hours of range/class room time on 8 very broad topics. Where on earth can you find such a plethora of information in a single location in such a compressed period of time?

It’s been a great weekend!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Just the Basics - New G17 Sights


One of the complaints I hear voiced most about the Glock pistols is . . . “Man!! I hate their sights!!!!!!” Honestly, I’ve always like the white “basket” on the rear sight combined with the white “ball” on the front blade. Put the “ball in the basket” and all is good in the world. Yes – I know they’re plastic. But . . . I like ‘em.

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That said, there are a few things that moved me in the direction of changing them. First, my eyes “ain’t what they used to be”. I have great distance vision. But, move my point of focus to fully extended arms holding my Glock 17 – let’s just say things get a bit fuzzy. So, I was looking for a front sight that was a bit more “dramatic”. Second, the stock plastic rear sight is simply not capable of any type of weapon manipulation against a holster, belt, shoe heal, sharp edge or anything else for that matter. The forward edge is gently sloped  and offers no point of purchase. Why would this even be important? Using a rear sight that can be hooked on some edge to manipulate the slide has become one option should you end up with a single arm to use during an encounter.

While there are a number of options available I settled on the AmeriGlo GL-444 rear claw set with a Trijicon H3-11 front blade. The rear sight is milled steel and has a slight curve on its forward face. This allows it to grip belts, holster edges, heels or other firm edges to allow its use to rack the slide using a single hand.

It also has an enlarged, square opening providing quicker front blade acquisition.

AmeriGlo GL-444 Claw Pro

The Trijicon H3-11 front blade is a large square that settles nicely in the enlarged rear sight notch. It also has a Tritium-Phosphor gas filled lamp providing better front blade acquisition whether in daylight, low light or no light conditions. Just the thing I was looking for to help my eyes find the front blade quicker and easier.

A word about changing sights on your semi-automatic pistols . . . This is not a rear sight changing and adjustment tool!

Brass Hammer  Brass Punch

The thought of taking a mallet and punch to my slide simply makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. My Uncle Ted was the one who always talked about the “proper tool for the job”. And in removing and replacing a rear sight on my Glock 17 there is, indeed a proper tool. Made by the Maryland Gun Works it’s purpose is to push the rear sight out of its notch and to push the new one into its proper place.

Glock 17 Tool Set 

Here you can see my Glock 17 slide properly mounted in the pusher tool. There is a plate that fits into the slide’s rail insuring the slide is firmly clamped into place and that it is not squeezed together while the old rear sight is removed and the new on is then pushed into place.

Rear Sight Tool - Glock 17 (Medium)

You can also see the newly installed front blade as well as the much larger notch in the rear sight.

Removal and replacement of the rear sight went very smooth and took mere moments to accomplish.

Here you can see the old sight combination as well as the front sight wrench and the Loctite “Blue” 242.

Front Sight - 2 (Medium)

You can see the very small bolt on the bottom of the old front blade. The small wrench on the left is used to remove it and then the front blade pops out. It is then replaced with the new front blade and a small amount of BLUE Loctite 242 is dabbed on the threads to hold it in place. This is a medium strength adhesive and will hold the bolt in place while the slide cycles but is not so strong that the bolt would be damaged should you decide to change it out again later. Looking at the inside of the slide you can see the small bolt that is holding the front blade in place.

Front Sight Bolt   New Front Sight 

This process also went very easily.

The result so far is quite good. I can pick up the front blade much easier and at standard defensive distances out to 10 yards the accuracy is definitely there.

Bottom line – don’t change your sights because everyone tells you to. But, if you have a specific reason to change, if you are looking to resolve an issue that has come up for you . . . take your time, do some shopping, read the reviews and find something that works for you.

I’ll be posting some range trips with these sights in the coming months and will let you know how well they have worked for me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Training – Something Brand New!


Beginning in late May 2014 I was invited to be part of the development team for the new Second Amendment Foundation Training Division. Our goal was to develop a set of coursework for the new and inexperienced shooter. It’s “come from” is the focus on the defensive use of a handgun, shotgun and carbine. Other courses will also be in the mix but our foundation is the defensive use of these three platforms to defend yourself, your family or someone in your charge.

The rollout of SAFTD was at Shot Show in January with our first round of coursework to be held the last weekend in March with Defensive Handgun 1. Additional courses will be rolled out through the summer/fall to include Defensive Handgun 2, Defensive Shotgun 1 and Defensive Shotgun 2 as well as Defensive Carbine 1 and Defensive Carbine 2. 2016 will see additional coursework as well filling out our entire suite of courses.

This is a national rollout with regional Master Trainers being responsible for different areas of the country. Who they are can be found here and a national map of their locations can be found here.

SAFTD is also looking for a core of instructors to help roll out these courses. That said, we are looking for serious, experienced instructors. Our requirements for those interested can be found here. If you can meet the requirements and are interested in getting in on the ground floor – contact the Regional Master Trainer nearest you.

So how is the SAFTD coursework different from all the others out there? In a couple ways. The news has been filled with articles about the millions of folks purchasing a firearm as a defensive weapon for the very first time. For me, personally, this is where I like to spend my time – working with new and inexperienced shooters. These folks are not interested in target shooting, trap shooting or hunting – they are looking to defend themselves, their families or someone in their charge. While there are a host of training companies and organizations out there, there simply is not one that is focused – from the very first day of class – on training brand new shooters in the defensive use of their firearm from the get-go. That is our intent and our target market. From the very first hour of class – and throughout all following coursework – our intention is to focus on your personal defense.

This also means much more range time, earlier, than some coursework that is currently offered. All of which is conducted from the defensive use of your firearm POV.

And, with a core set of curriculum that will be offered across the country we will be able to offer consistent quality training in your region.

If you’ve purchased a firearm for your personal defense, look our courses over. Simply having a defensive firearm means little if you have not trained on how to properly use it to defend yourself, your family or someone in your charge. “Wishing” you knew how to use it means nothing when faced with a determined attacker. Our coursework is starting next month in your region. Sign up! Get trained! And be ready to defend your family!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Just the Basics - EDC Update February 2015


EDC . . . Every Day Carry. What do you carry on your person every day, without fail, that is specifically there to help defend you, your family or someone in your charge should the need arise? It seems the topic has been making the rounds again so I thought I would post an update of mine, chat about the changes I’ve made and just bring the topic up to date for me.

EDC February 2015 (Medium)

This is my personal EDC:

  • Glock 17 in a Blackhawk Leather IWB holster with 15 rounds of Critical Defense ammunition – one in the chamber. This has been the single biggest change in my EDC. I replaced my Ruger LC9 and returned to a full sized handgun. This is also my “range gun” so it is totally seamless going between training and carry.
  • Spare magazine with 15 rounds of Critical Defense ammunition
  • Samsung Note 3. I’ve loaded various apps and data files for first aid, navigation, survival, shot timer . . . and a number of other useful-to-me applications.
  • Casio 2000T watch. The most useful functions – other than telling time – it is solar powered, syncs to a radio signal, has a compass, altimeter and barometer. These come in very handy on pack trips or paddles.
  • Wallet with ID, carry permit, credit cards and very limited cash.
  • SureFire 6P Defender – great flashlight and secondary impact weapon.
  • Kershaw Skyline pocket knife.
  • Old Gerber tool carry pouch with a small lighter, ferro rod and striker and a Leatherman Juice CS4

So what does an EDC get you?

First, it develops a rock solid habit . . . carrying your firearm every day. You will never get to choose “the time” . . . it will choose you. Your primary defensive weapon, your firearm, does absolutely no good at home, unloaded and in the safe. The only place it has value to you to provide you the ability to defend yourself, your family or someone in your charge is if you have it on your person. Carry it! Every day!

While no one wants to get into an extended gunfight, it would seem that more and more I read about home invasions with multiple assailants. A “6-shooter” isn’t going to be much help taking on 2 or 3 home invaders. That is one of the reasons I always have a second loaded magazine. The other reason? Magazines, like any mechanical device, can fail – a spare allows me to be back in the fight within a couple seconds.

My Casio 2000T gives me a bit of an edge on pack trips and paddles. Quick dips in the barometer reading is a reasonably good indicator of a low front moving in and indicates a pretty good chance for rain. The compass is a backup to the compass that hangs around my neck on these trips and comes in very handy for a quick heading reading. And, no batteries is just a great extra benefit.

The SureFire 6P is one of the best flashlights I’ve ever owned. It has a great beam and the serrated bezel provides a solid backup impact weapon as well.

I’ve carried a pocket knife since I became a Cub Scout days. The Kershaw Skyline is a solid backup defensive knife – slim, sturdy and easy to open.

For over 15 years I’ve had a “rule” that you should always have 3 ways to start a fire in your pocket. The small Gerber pouch with the lighter and ferro rod provide 2 ways and a small Fresnel lens that rides in my wallet provides a 3rd. This rule came about after a particularly brutal paddle where being driven off a lake with only a few members having ways to start fires on their person showed a fairly large hole in my training method. I fixed that after we were all safely “out”. Add to that the Leatherman Juice CS4 and not only can I start a fire – I can fix darn near any piece of gear I have on my person as well.

The Samsung Note3. It can provide a multitude of functions – from a very accurate GPS to allowing me to read a book with a Kindle app. Not to mention the ability to phone home. That said, I see many folks replace knowledge and common sense with the ability to instantly access virtually any piece of information on the planet from their smart phone. This is a VERY BAD HABIT. Everyone should have foundational knowledge . . . smartphones should simply be a “bennie” of the age we live in.

Finally, our greatest item in our EDC is that which resides between our ears. Ideally, for the individual who has integrated concealed carry into their life style, that knowledge is growing all the time. Methods to observe your surroundings, things you learn taking various coursework, things you learn during your individual training sessions on the range, the latest techniques in first aid as well as a virtually limitless list of topics regarding personal defense, survival, weapons and their use . . .

Take a walk through your EDC. Are there things you need to change or add or eliminate? If you never carry a particular item . . . why? To big, too bulky? Or are you unwilling to make the changes in clothing and attitude to integrate it into your EDC. Both are opportunities for change.

Bottom line . . . if you don’t have your defensive weapon with you when “the time” presents itself in front of you . . . it is not going to end well for you.

Carry! Every day! Period!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Long Guns – Part 4 – Let’s do the twist . . .


So I’m doing my standard “schpeal” introducing new shooters to the parts of semiautomatic pistol. I’ve removed the barrel so it can be passed around and looked at up close . . .


We talk about the Bore . . . the Crown . . . and the barrel’s Rifling consisting of Lands and Grooves.

To demonstrate their purpose, I use the age old football analogy. I ask . . . “How far does a football go if you just grab it by its sides and throw it? Does it go far? Can you do it accurately?”

The answers are those I’ve grown to expect . . . “It doesn’t go far!” “It’s all wobbly!” “You can’t throw if very accurately!” All true enough.

Then I ask . . . “What if you lay your fingers across the laces and throw it forward with just a bit of loft to the throw?”


Again, I get those answers I’ve grown to expect . . . “You can get a nice tight spiral!” “I can throw it much more accurately!” “It goes farther when I do that!”

“Increased distance, increased accuracy . . . sounds like something I’d like to be able to do with a bullet when it comes out of the barrel . . . how can I do that?” And the link is complete to an imperfect but easily explained analogy . . . “The rifling in the barrel will spin the bullet . . . that will make it more accurate and let it go farther!” is the response from most of the class.

Exactly . . . so let’s chat a bit about how that occurs . . . how the barrel imparts spin – a spiral motion – to the bullet. And, specifically the “twist” of the rifling and its effect on the bullet. With a football, your fingers impart the spin to the football as you release it. In the barrel of the gun the rifling grabs the bullet and imparts a rotation to the bullet as it travels down the barrel towards the muzzle.

Remembering all the way back to the purpose of this series of posts, the discussion was about accuracy of the shot. One of the points of discussion was on bullet construction and the “bearing surface” and the importance of the length of that surface being exactly the same from bullet to bullet. Precision shooters will actually group bullets by this parameter as well to insure the round they load will shoot as precisely as all others they are loading in a specific batch.

The rifling is why that is important. You want the same amount of surface area to be grabbed from round to round. Provided that the powder type, powder quantity, head pressure, burn rate of the primer, bullet weight are all identical – the velocity will then be identical from round to round. That insures the bullet travels down the barrel at exactly the same velocity – imparting the same amount of spin to the bullet . . . insuring that, leaving the barrel, bullets that are fired from the barrel of the gun have exactly the same velocity and spin to begin with. Hence accuracy is held from cartridge to cartridge.

The “twist” of the rifling as it goes down the barrel is a primary factor in the amount of spin imparted to the bullet. And that is the focus of this post. What does the word “twist” mean? Is there a “proper” amount of twist for a bullet? How do we calculate that? How does it ultimately affect the bullet?

As in all things “precise” this is a pretty deep “rabbit hole”. We are only going to go down it to the tip of our tail . . . a real plunge can easily involve hundreds of pages and dozens upon dozens of formulas. That’s not within the scope of this post – or this blog for that matter. Still, to make a proper selection of a long gun and how to match it to the ammunition you buy – you need some basics. And, that is the purpose of this blog!

Rifling consists of “Lands” and “Grooves”. “Grooves” are cut into the bore of the barrel to a typical depth of 0.004” and 0.006”. The “Lands” are the raised portion between the Grooves. The distance between opposing Lands is the final caliber of the barrel. While standard manufactures lean towards the small depth end of the scale for a broad range of bullet types, those barrels designed specifically to shoot cast bullets would lean towards the deeper depth, and in some cases even deeper than 0.006”. The vast majority of rifles chosen for precision shooting at distance will have groove depths near 0.004”.

The idea of a “Twist” comes from the fact that if you wish to grab the bullet along the bearing surface and impart a spin to it as it leaves the muzzle, the grooves need to run down the barrel in a helical manner, a “spiral” if you will. As the bullet is expelled down the barrel the Lands grab it and spin it. The twist rate defines the number of inches of rifling it takes to rotate the bullet one complete rotation. For example a 1 in 10 twist means the bullet will be rotated one complete rotation in 10 inches of barrel. This “twist rate” remains constant regardless of the length of the barrel.

The purpose of the Twist is to spin the bullet as it travels through the air. This stabilizes the bullet just as a spiraling football is more stable as it passes through the air. There are other issues as well, but I’ll leave them to a separate post on the ballistics of the bullet specifically. Let’s leave it at the Twist generating a spinning bullet that is more stable.

The number of grooves can vary widely depending on the purpose of the weapon, the bullet material and just plain experimentation over the years. There are 2-Groove, 4-Groove, 6-Groove, 7-Groove, 8-Groove and Multi-Groove rifled barrels.

The general formula for calculating “Twist” goes back to Professor Alfred George Greenhill and is simply called the Greenhill Formula. From 1876 until 1906 he was a professor of mathematics at the Woolrich Military Academy and focused much of his energy on analyzing the rotational speed required to stabilize an artillery shell. This general formula was adapted to calculating the twist rate of the much smaller bullet used in the small arms carried by soldiers. The general formula is:

T = (150 * bullet-diameter) / (bullet-length/bullet-diameter) This works for bullet velocities generally under 1,800 fps. The multiplier is changed to 180 for bullet velocities higher that 1,800 fps. Let’s use the ever popular .223 bullet for our example.

T = (150 * .224) / (.725/.224)

   = 33.60/3.24

   = 10.37

   = or a 1 in 10 twist

In fact, my Panther Arm A4 .223 does, indeed, have a 1 in 10 twist.

That said, now let’s change the multiplier to 180 and calculate the twist for a bullet with a velocity that is typically in excess of 1,800 fps.

T = (180 * .224) / (.725/.224)

   = 40.32/3.24

   = 12.44

   = or a 1 in 12 twist

The fine tuning comes from the number of “flyers” you send down range. As the velocity of the bullet increases, you will typically see a small increase in twist rate. Precision shooters . . . high precision shooters . . . may well have a custom barrel with a custom twist built for a specific bullet. Again, depends on the use.

The Twist generates the rotational speed of the bullet. Going back to the .223 with a 1 in 10 twist the formula would look like this.

Revolutions per SECOND = (12/Twist Rate) * Velocity of the bullet

                                              = (12/10) * 3200fps

                                              = 3840 RPS

                                              = 230,400 RMP

It is this spin that is imparted to the bullet that gives the bullet “gyroscopic stability” . . . so the bullet flies smoothly down range along its axis. Spin more slowly . . . the bullet may wobble and rather than a crisp hole in your target it may look more like a “keyhole”. Spin faster and it may well rip itself apart as it flies towards the target.

So there you have it. The rifling grabs the bullet, spins it, gives it stability and allows you, the shooter, to shoot a highly precise shot at distance.

Is there still grey area here? Sure. Stories have been told of precision shooters who have slightly increased or decreased their twist rate to increase accuracy. Consistency in the velocity of the bullet comes into play. Consistency of the physical dimensions of the bullet is a factor. Precision requires . . . precision in all things. Here, we are talking about a single component . . . the Twist of the rifling going down the barrel, what its purpose is, how the twist rate is tentatively arrived at and how it affects the bullet as it leaves the muzzle of the barrel. One more component to making a precise shot!

There is much more to this particular rabbit hole, do be afraid to go out and learn more!