Monday, March 28, 2016

Range Trip 3-28-16 Balance Speed and Precision

Well, the spring time analysis continues.  We had some really nice weather pop in so I snuck out of work a bit early and hit the range.

Purpose for today . . . work on why the heck the last time I was hitting left of center consistently from 50 feet . . . and see what my draw stroke times were as well as a couple accelerated follow up shots.  Would my speed and precision generate effective hits?

Let’s talk about that – effective hits – for just a bit.  For today’s work I was using the LE SEB targets.  It’s become my standard range target and provides a number of regions from head, high center mass, pelvic girdle and an array of number shapes for cognition drills.  When I working with local law enforcement a qualifying hit is within the silhouette. Were that my chosen standard today, my range trip would have been awesome!  I would have been only down 2 out of 60 rounds at 15 feet and down 1 out of 60 at 30 feet.  I’ll take it!!!  Sadly, my standard for today was that the hit had to be within the high center mass box.  Heavy sigh.  So let’s talk about it.

One of the reasons I post reviews of my range trips like this is to simply offer a “process” other instructors and shooters can evaluate to see if it works for them.  I always read folks saying “ya gotta do the work”, “hit the range and train!” . . . but few offer solid examples of how they do that and how they evaluate where they are, things they discover and corrections they made.  If you want to improve, you need to shoot and self-evaluate . . . and this is an example of how I do that – for better or worse.

I like to tape targets.  So you will see taped targets from 15 feet and 30 feet.  In the upper left you will see strips of the time of my initial shot and then follow up shots.  For the 15 feet target you will notice that the corresponding image for strip #2 is missing.  This is a malady known as “cranial rectal insertion”.  I posted the timing strip, taped the target and realized I that taped it before I’d taken the image.  Yep . . . head up my a$$ . . . so sue me. 

So let’s look at the targets first.  Each timing strip is 20 rounds (and yes, somewhere I missed writing down times for one set, heavy sigh).  Strip 1 showed first round engagements were right at 2 seconds +- a few hundredths.  Not bad honestly.  However, looking at shot placement I was down 6 with one round completely off the target.  Not what any shooter wants to see, I racked up a 70%.

Image 2 was missing but you can pick up the times from the second timing strip.  I obviously slowed down about a quarter second but actually became worse.  Heavy sigh!!  I was also noticing my rounds were still left of center – one of the things I was trying to figure out.

Timing strip 3 the primary correction I made was to firm up my grip and really work on focusing on the center of the target, driving straight to that point and really focusing on the front sight. My times remained good (all draws were from concealment with a long sleeved Henley shirt that was untucked) while my accuracy increased significantly dropping only 3 out of 20.  Overall I was down 18 for 60 . . . final “score” of 70%. 

Let’s move back to 30 feet.  Distance can magnify problems, errors, little things that can affect your shooting.  So let’s look at target 1 from 30 feet.

Notice the times are a bit longer – half secondish or so.  More distance, you have a bit more time, make use of it.  However, notice I am STILL a bit left of center.  So, I have slowed my time, firmed my grip, focused on driving straight and really paying attention to the front sight . . . what could be left.  Well, there is finger placement . . .

I usually stress the end 1/3rd of a shooters finger trigger being placed on the trigger.  But one of the symptoms of too little finger is to actually “push” the weapon to the left.  Could it be that simple?  So I slid about a quarter more of the end joint pad onto the trigger . . . imagine that . . . .

Notice that the impact of the rounds has now moved right significantly and are much more centered.  Still only a 70% “hit” rate, but they are now much more centered with a couple of flyers.

One last time with timing strip 3.  First round time is now right at 3 seconds with around a second between shots but my hit rate is finally at 80%, my minimum desired percentage.  I’m down 17 out of 60 for a final “score” of 72%.  That said, even with a less than desirable outcome, I’ve found, evaluated and corrected at least one problem . . . I need a bit more finger on the trigger.  This then becomes a point to remember, work on and to continue to evaluate to see if this correction holds true throughout my work going forward.

I loaded up another 21 rounds split between two magazines and spent some time with the numbered shapes and the head shot.  The final time strip shows the results working from 15 feet.  Since these are precise shots I didn’t place a time limit on them, simply waited until I was ready to shoot.  It appears the average time was 3-ish seconds per shot.  I dropped 4 rounds out of 21 . . . a score of 81%.  That’s acceptable, nothing to write home about, but OK.

So why should a shooter go through all this work.  A few thoughts . . .

 How do you know where you “are” if you don’t measure yourself from time to time?  And when I say the word “measure” I mean you should develop a reasonable plan, pick 2 or 3 things you want to focus on and then shoot enough rounds to make that meaningful.  Today was 141 rounds to be precise over about an hour and a half with documentation and taping between shooting sets.  If gives me specific points to measure, focus on, work through corrections and then establishes a new bench mark going forward.

This makes sense to me . . . may not to you, but it does to me.  Making holes in paper just for the sake of sending rounds down range doesn’t make sense to me.  I am fond of “practice with purpose” . . . and you should be able to clearly articulate the reasons you are doing what you are doing.

All In My No So Humble Opinion . . . of course.

So there you have it.  Obviously I have things to work on.  But, I did create movement so I’m pleased with that. I would encourage you to make a plan, take some time, shoot the plan and document it . . . and then share it with the rest of us.  We can all learn from what you discover.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Commentary - Naiveté Kills

Naiveté:  lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment.
               innocence or unsophistication.

In many ways we . . . the “western world” . . . remain asleep.  We find comfort in our tablets, iPhones, Androids, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Skype . . . a virtual endless stream is entertainment and distraction.  It allows us to continue our slumber and to shake off momentary interruptions like the latest in Brussels as we did those in Paris and San Bernardino.

These distractions allow us to “mourn” as well by viewing videos of people holding candles, laying flowers, placing teddy bears and notes of sympathy.  It places a safe distance between the results of nails ripping through flesh and us – safe in our homes dozens to thousands of miles away.  There is a global gasp, a mutual outpouring of emotion and finally a collective sigh that we and our family are “safe”.  One moment we watch the explosion’s flash on YouTube . . . and then quickly thumb over to the latest music video . . . secure in our safety.

Safe in our slumber . . . our innocence . . . our naiveté.

How do you awaken folks to the fact the we are in a war with an existential threat?  That this war, in one fashion or another, we well over a millennium old.  That it has been fought with everything from a short sword to poison gas.  And that within the next decade or so that inventory will likely include nuclear weapons.

How do you get past the blather that ranges from the Pope kissing the feet of Syrian “refugees” and proclaiming that ISIS will be defeated by love?  Or the presidential candidates saying we will carpet bomb them out of existence.

As with most things, it’s more complicated than either of these two bookends would indicate.  Take some time to roll through this Pew poll on Islam and Muslims from December of last year.  And while you read the printed percentage numbers . . . do a mental calculation of the difference between the printed number and 100%. 

Some take-aways for me . . .

  • Islam is the fastest growing religion on the planet, growing at over twice the rate that the population is growing.

  • There are currently 1.6 Billion Muslims in the world today.

  • The primary band of Islamic influence extends from Eastern Africa through the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and into the Philippines. This represents 62% of the global population . . . or nearly 1 billion people.

  • Well over 50% of that population desire full implementation of Sharia Law.

  • Favorable views of ISIS range between 6% to 20% in this belt of influence.  This implies that between 60 Million and 200 Million Muslims find the actions and policies of ISIS acceptable.

  • Around 8% of all Muslims interviewed justified the use of suicide bombings in some circumstances.  It we extend this particular number to the estimated 1.8 million adults (there are currently an estimated 2.75 Muslims in the US) this would lead to an estimated 144,000 Muslims within the us that see value in suicide bombers under certain circumstances.

  • Roughly half of the Muslims interviewed in the us are dissatisfied that their leaders have not spoken out more against radical Islam . . . and the other half are not.

Bottom line . . . we . . . western civilization . . . regardless of how the borders are drawn . . . are at war with an army of between 60 Million and 200 Million souls.

And yet we feel safe in our slumber . . . our naiveté . . . our distractions.

So between  . . . kissing the feet of our enemies . . . and . . . carpet bombing them out of existence . . . what are our options and how can we awaken from slumber and our naiveté?

A few thoughts . . .

Stop “pretending not to know” . . . there is a problem with Islam – period.

Muslim leaders must lead their people in the direction of sanity . . . not destruction.  The problem here is that much of the leadership has been radicalized and that our friends is Saudi Arabia are a large part of this particular problem.  At a minimum, Muslim leaders within the US must be encouraged and expected to speak out full voice against the acts of ISIS/ISIL/DASH. 

We are under no obligation to take in refugees from troubled countries unless each and every person can be fully vetted.  Our current policy implies that we can do this from Africa to the Philippines and is foolishness – as the couple from San Bernardino clearly shows. An indefinite pause on immigration from this region as well as any European country currently accepting people in this current migration should be implemented immediately . . . today . . . now!

We must understand that this is a multi-generational war, and our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will deal with this threat.  That’s a hard line to type yet time-wise it covers only 60 years.  I suspect the resolution to this problem will take much longer.

We need to be willing to stand and fight.  I worry about this particular point.  I hear how tired our nation is, how we can’t afford a strong defense.  I see how quickly we are disarming . . . yet, I suspect kissing the feet of ISIS/ISIL/DASH will do little to defend us.  The US has traditionally only moved to defend itself after great pain has been inflicted.  These small attacks – deaths in the 20s, injuries in the low hundreds – seem to be below the threshold of pain that prompts action.  I suspect that is not accidental – and I suspect the operational pace will continue.  It’s been 14 years and 6 months since 9/11/2001.  To date there have been 28,041 since 9/11.  In the past 30 days there were 136 Islamic attacks in 25 countries, in which 1016 people were killed and 2914 injured.   Our enemy are “true believers”, they are dedicated, focused, skilled and plentiful.  We ignore them at our peril.  Larger attacks will come – to people, to infrastructure – eventually it will be enough to prompt us to action.

We need to get past the idea that the issue is not Islam . . . because it is.  When you have 60 to 200 MILLION believers in a faith bent on the conquest, subjugation and domination of all “non-believers” . . . that particular faith has a very real problem.  Obviously those within the faith have the best chance at moderation and shifting its path.  However, finding a large enough portion that will loudly and consistently condemn these acts seems to be difficult.  Until a change is seen and actions are taken by the Muslim community as a whole . . . Islam is, indeed, the problem.

Finally – a foundational principle from the Republican Party of Iowa . . .

5: Personal Responsibility is the primary duty of all citizens.

We are a nation of individuals held together by a common vision. We are not servants of the government; we are not dependent on the largess of society for our survival. Our possibilities are limitless; they not should be limited by our local, state and federal government. We are individuals, we are citizens of our country and we – and we alone – are responsible for our successes and failures.

As a nation we’ve become more and more dependent on the government for both services and protection.  In many respects we’ve become indentured to the government – held by the promise of money, jobs, protection and a better life.  Our parents and grandparents looked in the mirror and to friends and neighbors when they needed a hand.  We’ve chosen “big brother”.  It is profoundly naïve to believe a 911 call will bring the police quickly enough to prevent our loved ones from being killed.  It is profoundly naïve to believe our federal government has deep enough pockets to provide us our every need.  It is profoundly naïve to trust a government with our individual security when they have proven over and over again to being unable to protect us on either home or foreign soil.  Look in the mirror . . . because that person, and that person alone is responsible for your successes and failures, your well being and your individual defense.   

While kissing the feet of your mortal enemy may allow us to feel all warm and fuzzy inside . . . no one should be surprised when we take a bullet to the chest as we reach out to give them a hug.

Our naiveté as individuals and a nation . . . will get us killed.

It is time we set aside the man made distractions . . . and paid attention to the man made threats . . .

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Range Trip 3-6-2016 - Status Check

Well . . . the snow is off the range, the water and ice mostly gone and the temps have snuck above freezing . . . SPRING!!!  I’d like to say I shoot as much when it’s -10*F as I do when it’s 70*F . . . but that’d be stretching the truth just a bit.  I did conduct a class every month during the winter with a couple hundred rounds for me in each class.  And I did make a range trip or two each month . . . but no high volume days.  What that means is that it’s time for some polish before the training season picks up in the next few months.  Time for a Status Check. 

I did spend time last year working on longer range shooting – 50-feet and 25 yards.  So on Sunday, March 6th, while waiting for a private student I hit the range a bit early to shoot a couple evaluation rounds to see how I stand coming into much better weather.  Here was my course of fire . . . 

  • 50 rounds, .22cal, Ruger 22/45, 50 feet
  • 50 rounds, 9mm, Glock 17 (my EDC weapon), 50 feet
  • 10 rounds, 9mm, Glock 17, 5 yards
  • 10 rounds, 9mm, Glock 17, 7 yards
  • 10 rounds, 9mm, Glock 17, 10 yards
  • 10 rounds, .22cal 22/55, 5 yards
  • 10 rounds, .22cal 22/45, 7 yards
  • 10 rounds, .22cal 22/45, 10 yards 

Total round count, 80 rounds 9mm and 80 rounds .22 – 160 rounds total. 

Practice with purpose – be able to articulate the purpose.  We’ve had a number of discussions of why we go to the range, what we do there and how that dials into our legal defense should the need arise.  In this case I’m confirming (or NOT confirming) my marksmanship skills at multiple distances after a season of diminished range time.  And, I am also setting a baseline for the year as well as polishing my capabilities.  As I’ve said, have a reason to go, document the trip and hold yourself accountable for the results.  Simple as that.
The target of choice for this trip was a standard D-1 “tombstone” target with a 4”, 8” and 12” circle centered “center mass”.  I also added 6 2x2 “post-it” notes for the 10 round engagements.  (Photos will make this a bit clearer).

Status checks should be shot cold.  Obviously, by the time the course of fire is complete you will no longer be “cold” but the first 50 rounds or so should be a pretty good indicator of where you are.  My expectation is to hold a 6” group at 50’.  That is actually pretty easy to do with the .22/45 – very low recoil and near target quality sights.  My overall group size was right at 4-ish inches, I’ll take it.  You can see in the image below (.22 rounds on the right, 9MM on the left) that while my group size was acceptable and all rounds were within the bounds of the target – they tended right.  This is a brand new gun and I have not confirmed the sights with a bench rest session but it may well be that my trigger press is the culprit.  More on this in a bit.  All in all, I was happy with the result – the precision was within my expectations . . . the accuracy was not, as I said, I’m a bit right of center.

Next up was my Glock 17, EDC weapon.  I have made one change to this gun, I’ve added the Trijicon front sight as well and I.C.E.’s “Claw” rear sight.  It is designed to assist in single-handed weapon manipulation and also has a wider rear notch for faster threat acquisition.  It’s a trade-off that allows you to get on target with a threat faster, but can reduce (or increase the time required) to place an accurate shot at distance – in this case 50’.  Since 80+% of all defensive encounters happen within 3 yards, it’s a good tradeoff.

You can see that this group of 50 rounds is a bit higher and to the left.  If you get real picky you can notice that I number each hole 1-5 corresponding in each 10 round engagement. I expected this group to open a bit, and it did though the majority of rounds held to the 6” goal I set for myself.  Again, all rounds were within the target.

So what to draw from this?  A few thoughts . . .
  • Trigger press is fairly consistent as seen by a reasonable group size.
  • Finger placement is fairly consistent as well – again the groups were consistent.
  • It may imply that a rear sight alignment might help since I have never bench rest shot either my Glock 17 after I replaced the sights or the .22/45 since I took it out of the box.  I will probably do this with the .22/45.  Pending the outcome of that I’ll make a decision on the Glock 17.

Just a reminder about the difference between “Precision” and “Accuracy”.  Precision implies reasonably tight groups depending on the weapon.  For a rifle with a barrel that can shoot 1 MOA – a 1” group at 100Y would be a precise group.  Placing it within the outline of the designated target would be an “Accurate” shot.  For a weapon to be both Accurate and Precise – both of these things must occur.

For my 50’ engagements – they fell within my desired level of precision . . . however their accuracy can certainly be improved.  That said – if we move to the realm of “Combat Effective Hits”, virtually all 100 rounds would have inflicted damage that would have diminished the threat’s ability to attack.  So . . . balance in all things. 

Moving to an evaluation of my ability to place precise shots from within a standard defensive range – 5 yards, 7 yards and 10 yards – I used a standard post-it note, a 2”x2” target. 

First I rolled through my Glock 17.  Notice that left to right I scored a 90%, 80% and 70% in accuracy, but 100% in precision keeping the overall group size at a 2” limit.  Also note that the rounds tended left as they did from the 50’ mark. 

Next, the .22/45 fared better with 100% in the first two engagements and a 60% (heavy sigh) in the 10-yard engagement.  That said, the overall precision for all three targets held within the desired 2” expectation. 

So what did this trip show me? 

First, I’ve maintained my skillset fairly well over the winter months.  My standard training regimen should add the “polish” fairly quickly this spring. 

I may need to evaluate the rear sight placement/adjustment for each of the handguns used. 

It’s nice to be back on the range without absolutely freezing my butt off . . . I was really ready for spring! 

So, for you – both the experienced and inexperienced shooter – hit the range, choose an evaluation course of fire and then shoot and document it!  See where you are, tease out your weaknesses and then set about fixing, improving, polishing your skills.  Honestly folks, there are no shortcuts.  Good, consistent and focused training will polish your skills and maintain them.  Period. 

Go do the work!