Thursday, October 27, 2016

Range Trip - 10-27-2016 Precision Rifle Shooting Eval

Well, it seems I’ve covered a “Fall Shooting Evaluation” of my carry gun - a Glock 17, my newly won gun - a Glock 19, my defensive carbine – a DPMS Oracle in .223.  It seems only logical that I run a range trip to evaluate my shooting capability with one of my two precision rifles – a “build” with a no-name lower, a Bushmaster upper, a DMPS trigger group that has been upgraded with a Timney single stage trigger, a no-name adjustable stock, Blue Force sling, Harris Bipod, Nikon Prostaff scope with a BDC reticle and an attached level.  It’s been the gun I’ve been using to learn/tweak/and work on my mechanics while also being able to work on my precision as well.  It’s been a good tool.

 It’s also been sitting in it’s case for a bit too long – 6 months or more.  So here’s the drill . . . family member held hostage, a cold bore headshot is my only option and this is the gun I have in my hand.  I gotta “go to work”.  

Let’s expand on the scenario a bit more.  I’ve provided links below to studies of SWAT sniper engagements over the last decade or more.  First – there have been VERY FEW.  And, the average distance for a precision shot?  50 Yards.  Yep, that’s it – 50 yards.  So while everyone is so very fond of shooting at 100 yards and much more . . . the “real work” is actually accomplished at a much closer distance.  Rob Pincus talks about “possible”, “plausible” and “probable”.  It’s possible you might need to take a 300 yard defensive shot, it’s much more plausible the distance would be within 100 yards and it is most probable the distance would be at the 50 yard distance.  So where do you spend your time?  If you’re like most shooters the “cool factor” of ringing steel at 500 yards is pretty darn high – and takes a lot of work.  The real work of hammering round after round into the ocular cavity on a LEtargets SEB SWAT target doesn’t really seem rise to the level of a 500 yard shot.  My advice – if your precision rifle is one of your defensive components – start spending time at 50 yards.

 So, I grabbed 4 boxes of range ammo (80 rounds), grabbed my carbine and headed to the range yet again.  This is been more range trips that I have done in quite some time but the results have been interesting and the focus has been on evaluation of just where the heck I am currently as a shooter.  I think it’s been good time spent.

 So here’s the course of fire I came up with . . .

 First 5 rounds are all cold bore shots to the ocular cavity

Next 15 rounds down the left side of the target – 5 on the “1”, 5 on the “3” and 5 on the “5”.

Following 15 rounds down the right side of the target – 5 on the “2”, 5 on the “4” and 5 on the “6”.

Next 5 on the high center mass box, rate of fire is 1 round per second.

The final 5 rounds are on the pelvic girdle box – rate of fire is 1 round per half-second.

Total round count – 45 rounds.  My result – down zero.  Pretty darn happy with that honestly, particularly with the 5 cold bore rounds to the ocular cavity.  Solid hits certainly helps to raise the confidence level should such a requirement be thrown at me.

 I finished with 10 rounds left so I stepped over to the 100 yard range . . . with a steel plate at the target line.  Who can resist – right?  I went 10/10 - I'll take it!

 There are a number of elements that help yield precice hits at greater distances.  A firearm capable of a minimum level of accuracy – say 1MOA.  A crisp and very repeatable trigger, a good optic – good, it doesn’t need to be a $3,500 optic.  The Nikon Prostaff with the BDC reticle I have cost around $150 and got me through a precision shooting course out to 500 yards without any problem.  A scope level helps and become more meaningful as distance increases.  A solid bipod that you can consistently load and keep on target through multiple round engagements.  And, lastly, dependable and consistent ammunition.  What I shot today was cheap ball ammo, 55 grain PMC.  More that good enough for good training work.

 The last component is simply time behind the gun.  Precision shooting on the part of the shooter becomes a balance of breath management, smooth trigger press, disengaging from the weapon as much as possible and using solid bagging techniques . . . and, as I said before, time behind the gun.  I’ve done a number of posts on long range shooting.  There is value in them, take some time and read through them.  All of the info will help you make a critical and very precise shot that you will need to make to save your family member.  There are no short cuts, you just plain need to do the work.

 I’ve also done a rather extensive post on “Head Shots” too.  There is so very much more than just “shooting the bastard in the head”.

 So here’s your challenge.  If a precision rifle is part of your defensive suite – to the range, set up an appropriate target and fire the first 5 rounds at the “head”.  See how you do.  There is also value of a course of fire similar to what I have laid out here as well.  If you never evaluate yourself . . . never test yourself . . . should the worst happen, it will be too late to “tune” up your shooting.

 No shortcuts – hit the range, do the work, expect the best . . . every range trip.

 Here are some articles regarding SWAP Sniper shots and their distance.  They're certainly worth your time to read.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Range Trip 10-24-2016  Defensive Carbine Lessons

Well, it seems we were blessed with yet another gorgeous day!  I killed off my Monday morning customer alligators so I figured “why not?”  Since I’d spent some time evaluating the Glock 19, reminding myself about utilizing a more rapid sight picture on my Glock 17 . . . I figured I’d round out the process by hitting the range with my defensive carbine.  For me that means a DMPS Oracle .223 with fold up backup sights and an EOTECH 517.   I’ve done a couple courses with this particular carbine and other it being just plain heavy, I have nothing really bad to say about it.  I last zeroed the backup sights the weekend of November 8th, 2008.  I purchased in on Wednesday, November 5th, 2008.  I will let you draw your own conclusions.   The Back-Up Sights have remained rock solid since then.  I have enjoyed the same stability with the EOTECH as well.  I have not replaced it, nor have I experienced any drift.

A while back I found a zero technique to zero a .223 AR shooting a 55 grain bullet that would zero it for both 50 and 200 yards.  You can find the post here.  About a year ago while taking a CFS carbine class, I confirmed this zero and made no adjustments.  As I said, it’s held just fine so the trip today required no tweaking what so ever.

I followed a course of fire very similar to the one that I used for the Glocks with the exception that I expanded the distances.  Again, I used the LEtargets SEB target.  The first round was 15 rounds at 10Y, 5 rounds on the “1”, 5 rounds on the “3” and 5 rounds on the “5”.  The second round was 15 rounds at 15Y, 5 rounds on the 2, 5 rounds on the 4, 5 rounds on the 6.  Round three was the “failure drill”, 2 rounds high center mass and one to the ocular cavity, a total of 15 rounds.  The fourth and final round was at 50 yards, 15 rounds to the pelvic girdle.

The idea here is to simulate an immediate need – grab the carbine from behind my rear seat, go to the proper spot on the range and shoot the course of fire.  In real life, should things go sideways in a really big way for you, you will have no time for tweaking . . . simply responding.  Your defensive carbine (if that is part of your defensive weapon systems) simply must be ready to go out of the box, just as your defensive sidearm is, in its holster, on your side as you read this.  (It’s there . . . right?)

So I slide through the sling, insert a mag, mount the carbine and yank the charging handle to the rear, then let it go.  Next I click on the 517 . . . . next I click on the 517 . . . and . . . it’s dead.  Think about this particular instant if you were to be actually engaged with a threat on a two-way range.  Can you smoothly transition to your backup irons?  Are you confident of their zero?  Can you shoot with your backup irons?  The reality is you have no time to decide any of this – if the world is sliding out of control you better engage and you better hit what you are aiming at.

So, off I go and I engage the “1” from 10 yards, 3 of the 5 rounds hitting a couple inches low.  Pro tip . . . a 55grain .223 round will hit approximately 2 inches low at 10 yards if you’ve established a 50y – 200y zero.  You need to remember this!  While you would still be hammering rounds into your threat, your precision sucks . . . just sayin’.  If you don’t visit the range, if you don’t run the guns you are going to depend on to defend yourself, your family or those in your charge . . . surprises will happen at the most inopportune times.

On to “3” . . . 5 rounds, down only 1.  I remembered the 2 inch drop, kicked myself in the butt and kept on shooting.

On to “5” . . . 5 rounds, down only 1.  I hate these damn little triangles . . . just sayin’.

Round two begins at 15 yards on “2”, drop is ever so slightly less . . . 5 rounds, down zero.  Hey, “nudges” count!

On to “4”, heavy sigh . . . all to the right, down 3.  And finishing up on “6” (did I say something about hating the little triangles???) again to the right, down 3.

Round 3 moves me up to 7 yards.  This is the failure drill.  Two rounds high center mass and one to the ocular cavity.  15 rounds total, down zero on high center mass, down 4 on the ocular cavity.

I move back to 50 yards, I am down 8 for 15.  So let’s do the math . . . for 60 rounds I am down 3,1,1,0,4,3,4,and 8 for a total of down 24 out of 60  . . . or I shot a “60%”. 

My worst target was at 50 yards.  All shooting was unsupported, so using some kind of cover as a brace may well have snugged up those 8 misses.  Next, if you get lazy and don’t shoot your iron sights, your performance suffers.  It is part of the skill set you simply must practice on.  If you are a LEO, and shoot a qual course once or twice a year with a carbine, I’d strongly suggest you shoot it with iron sights.  If you refine that skill should things go sideways in a really big way you will have a much better chance of going home standing rather than in a ZipLoc.   Obviously this holds true for me as well and I will find time to put more work in with iron sights in the very near future.

This particular part of the range trip is host to a couple lessons.  Failures happen at inopportune times.  And, if you have a battery powered optic, the batteries will fail when you need them.  And, you will look in your range bag, your pockets, your callout bag, your weapon case . . . and discover that there are no batteries to be found, your battery powered optic is useless.  Got batteries?????

So I finished up this short trip, grabbed some lunch, went back to the office to see if anyone needed a hand.  I handled a few calls, dotted a few “i’s”, crossed a few “Ts” and wondered if I had any batteries in my desk drawer.  Imagine that . . . there were a half dozen or so.  And so my work day ended and off to the range I went to repeat the same course of fire but with my EOTECH optic operational.  (the “crap” all across the target face is splatter from a steel plate that was just to the left of the target.  After I finished up the 50-yard course of fire I shot up the remaining 15 rounds on the steel.  I do kinda love that “PING” sound.  But the splatter really messed with the target).

So, did the EOTECH make all that much difference?
15 rounds at 10Y.

Down 1 on “1”, down zero on “3” and down 1 on “6”.   I could call this much improved.

Second 15 rounds at 15Y.

Down 0 on “2”, down 2 on “4” and down 2 on “6”.

Third 15 rounds at 7 yards, the failure drill.  Down 0 on high center mass, down 1 on the ocular cavity.

Fourth and final 15 rounds at 50 yards, down 3. 

So the final tally . . . down 1,0,1,0,2,2,3 and 2 for a total of down 11.  Or . . . I shot an “82%”.

So what should the take-away be for you?  First, if a carbine is part of your defensive weapons array . . . have you been to the range lately?  Have you shot any type of qualification course – your own or some other one?  (Try the OLD FBI course of fire for starters.)  Do you trust it’s “zero”?  Do the optics work?  Do you have backup irons “just in case”?  Can you shoot them?  Can you move easily from one to the other?  Do you know the different ballistic response at different distances?  Where is the point of impact for your defensive rounds at 7Y, 10Y, 15Y, 50Y, 100Y, 200Y?  Can your “run your gun”, clear failures, change magazines quickly and easily?

You will not do a single realistic evaluation of any of these questions . . . if you don’t hit the range.  It’s not “ammunition intensive”, this was only 60 rounds, yet it will wring out your skillset reasonably well.  Oh . . . have you taken a carbine course lately?  Ever?  I have found for many shooters the way the “gun runs” in their head varies radically from the way it runs in a reasonably strenuous range course.  If a defensive carbine is part of your mix, take a frickin’ course . . . just sayin’.

So there ya go.  A rather quick range trip to flesh things out turned into a rather nice learning/reminder/butt kicking trip.  I shall endeavor to do better.

Get outta the recliner folks . . . and hit the range!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Review - AAR NAPSI FDP Course 10-9-2016

On October 9th I conducted a NAPSI Foundations of Defensive Pistol (FDP) course for a class of 4, 3 women and one guy.  The average time for this course is 9 hours including both SIRT and live fire range time.  It was a good group!  So let’s chat about how it went.

The FDP course is designed to do two primary things.  First, to begin to move the student’s mindset into the defensive use of a firearm world.  And second, to cover a wide range of foundational material from holsters to shooting from cover.  There is no holster work, all shooting is done from a firing line from the High Compressed Ready.  But the drills are comprehensive and designed to provide a solid starting point to move forward in their defensive pistol skill set.

There are 10 primary lessons that the students covered . . .
  • Introduction to Revolver
  • Introduction to Semi-Automatic Pistols, their malfunctions and remedies
  • Firearms Safety and Safe Gun Handling
  • Introduction to holsters, belts and off-body carry
  • Introduction to Ammunition
  • Range Safety Protocols and Care and Cleaning of Handguns
  • Defensive Shooting Fundamentals, Mindset and Selecting a Defensive Handgun
  • Live Fire: Introduction to Defensive Shooting
  • Live Fire:  Using Cover and Concealment
  • Skills Application, Written Exam, Final Thoughts and Debrief

As you can see, it was a busy day that started at 8 AM and finished just after 5 PM.  Everyone went home appropriately tired.

It has been my experience that the majority of students come to a first level course with the intent to fill the square to get their carry permit.  This obviously varies from state to state and is a very simple task to accomplish in Iowa.  Next, most truly want to learn something.  And finally, those who want to learn want range time as well.  The FDP course filled those items for these folks.

It began with a review of the handguns they would typically choose to defend themselves.  Each type was covered in full so as they went “out into the world” they could make better choices for a firearm that would work for them.

Then we talked about safe gun handling.  We have adopted Cooper’s 4 rules simply because we believe they are more applicable in the defensive use of a handgun world.  We talked at length about each and how they are relevant to the save use of a firearm.

Next came an introduction to holsters, belts and different types of off body carry.  It is my opinion that this is an area that is all too often neglected yet is probably one of the most important things the students need to get right in the real world.

This was followed by an introduction to ammunition with a focus to the two primary types a defensive shooter is exposed to – ball ammunition for range work and expanding ammunition for defensive carry. 

We worked our way through the range commands we would be using and then talked about the care and cleaning of typical types of handguns.  This brought us to lunch – I think everyone was approaching overload so the timing worked well.

After lunch we began with defensive shooting fundamentals, defensive mindset and worked through the primary concerns when choosing a defensive handgun.  Here, one specific item fell out when we talked about defensive mindset.  I’m working on a more extensive post but, in a nutshell we chatted a bit about the 2nd Amendment, it’s importance and what it means to us as Americans.  In under all the politics, all the jockeying for position, all the solid information and the disinformation that floats around out there . . . there is one fundamental truth at the end of the day . . .

You have the natural right to live . . . and no one has the right to take that away from you. 

That, to me, is the foundation of the 2nd Amendment . . . I have the right to life . . . period.  More on this at some future date in a separate post.

From here I move to a SIRT range.  I worked the students through the use of a semiautomatic pistol, the loading and “racking” of the slide (yes, I know they don’t move).  Then we worked on stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture and trigger press.  We worked through a number of drills starting with the Drive-Touch-Press drill up through accelerated pairs.  Honestly, this SIRT range time is golden!  If you have not tried it, get yourself a SIRT and see for yourself.  For instructors, SIRT range time make the live fire more valuable and safer IMNSHO.

Next was the move to the range and working through the course range drills.  Again from the Drive-Touch-Press drill through Accelerated Pairs.  This moved to use of cover and concealment, a challenge drill and finally a qualification shoot. 

Off the range . . . back to the classroom and on to the written exam, a few final thoughts and then a course debrief.  It was a good day!

So, congrats to Ann, Leah, Sue and TJ – great job folks!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Range Trip - 10-22-2016 - Sight Alignment - Sight Picture - Trigger Press – It matters . . .

The opportunity for short range trips pop up every now and then.  Take advantage of them.  I had about an hour block of time unexpectedly appear this morning, so I headed to the range.  What to do . . . what to do . . .  As I hammer on, have a plan – don’t just send lead down range.

I’m still betting acquainted with my new Glock 19 so I thought spending some time at distance – today it was 15 yards, would help round out my understanding of the G19.  I posted two targets, one for my carry G17 and one for the new G19.  The first target seen below was the result of 15 rounds of slow fire, taking “careful” aim.  Heavy sigh, a pretty sad effort and not I’m too pleased to post it.  But, there are lessons in everything so let’s chat a bit.

When I was taking the Gunsite 150 class this summer there was one particular drill at 30 feet that came to mind.  It was very similar to what I was trying to do here.  Aimed fire and a group around 6” in diameter.  All went well until the very last string and I simply blew things low.  One of the instructors came up and asked . . . “What the hell happened Bill?  You just went from “hero” to “Zero”!”  I kinda thought about things and answered that I honestly had no idea why that particular string went low.  “I can tell you . . . too much time aiming.  You were on target way too long.  Drive to the threat, gather a clear sight picture along the way, and press the trigger when you have completed your drive.  You gain nothing by staying on target too long.”  I thought about it and then worked on that throughout the rest of the coursework.  I was genuinely surprised had how much his advice improved my shooting.  Back to today . . .

The second target, physically posted just below the one shown above, was shot with the Glock19 – also at 15 yards.  Note the improvement.

Ignore the single round high and center, it’s one of the dropped shots from the G17 rounds on target 1.  On this target I focused on the advice I had been given – drive to the threat, pick up the front sight, acquire a solid sight alignment and sight picture, take up the slack in the trigger and then simply press the trigger when full extension is reached.  Hold this sight picture and press off an accelerated shot as soon as the sight picture is reacquired.  This would be the result of these controlled pairs.  While the first target was 10/15 . . . the Glock 19 was 15/15 within a 6”x6” group.  A solid difference.

So, one more time with the G17, at 15 yards using the same technique.  Drive to the threat while gaining a solid sight alignment, sight picture with a smooth trigger press when full extension is reached and executing a controlled pair.

 Now I’m back to 12/15 – 80% (my minimum acceptable score) with the G17 at 15m.

So what’s the point here.  A couple things.  Set a standard and demand it of yourself.  If you are not meeting it – work out why.  Don’t leave the range until you’ve repaired whatever has been broken.  Take coursework from other instructors – someone will say something to you that will have a positive effect on your shooting.  Document your range trips.  Evaluate every target, evaluate your failures and determine what mistakes you have made – then fix them.  And, share your experience with other instructors and shooters.  We all learn from each other . . . unless we simply remain quiet and share nothing.  I see little value in that.

One last target.  I drew a ½’ square and loaded a magazine with 5 rounds (finishing off the box), stepped to 3 yards and shot 5 rounds of slow fire with the G19.  The point was a single hole.  The result was 3 touching, one high and a flinch low.  I like this drill because it was another one I learned at Gunsite though this was abbreviated.  The actual drill is . . . fire a single shot at a very small target . . . then dry fire for 5 rounds . . . and repeat 5 times.  You’d be surprised how much this simple drill can improve the precision of your shooting.

So there ya have it . . . an unexpected range trip, only about an hour, 50 rounds and some good lessons revisited and reinforced. 

Ya gotta hit the range folks – with purpose – and then evaluate your performance.  So, grab a box and hit the door!  What are you waiting for?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Just the Basics – Firing First Shots

It was the last “gun” of the night.  I’m at our annual Ikes fundraising banquet.  One of the draws for this banquet is that we give away – this year – 19 guns, ranging from a Glock 19 to an AXIS .240 with scope.  We also have both a live auction and a silent auction as well as a meal provided by a state champion preparing a couple different smoked meats.  It was a great night.

One of the games was a 12x12 board . . . 1 thru 12 for the rows . . . and A thru L for the columns.  12 Red poker chips held the letters while 12 white chips held the numbers.  In each square was the attendee’s “number”.  We sell 130 tickets to the banquet – each attendee receives a unique number to use during the night for all bids.  (As a side note, I have the distinct pleasure of holding the office of president of our chapter – so the final management of this evening was on me.)  Up until now we had held a live auction for 21 items, a silent auction for another 17 items, held 2 other games, given away a ton of gift certificates, miscellaneous prizes and a total of 18 guns . . . one left, a Glock 19.  It’s always feels a bit dicey when a board member or officer wins a prize.  That said, we all buy tickets, bid on auctions and take our chances.  But, we all worry about appearances as well. 

One of the officer’s daughter was the “Drawing Professional” for the entire evening.  So we lifted the bucket containing the Red chips . . . “I!” called our vice president.  Lizzie dips her hand into the buckets containing the White chips next . . . “10!” calls the VP.  “The winning number is 2 . . . 7 . . . 3!”  And I pause . . . it’s my number.  I look at him and say – ‘That’s my number!”  I had one the last gun of the night . . . a brand new, outta the box Glock 19, Gen 4 with three magazines.  I have won two things in the past . . . a koozie . . . and a dish to keep food cold in a lunch box.  And now a new Glock - - - COOL!!!!!

The night wrapped up, I took some gentle ribbing abut the win, we cleaned up and we were all home by 11PM – a fine time was had by all.

At the banquet you actually win a “gift certificate” which you need to take to the local gun dealer, fill out all the appropriate paperwork and pick up your firearm.  Today was Monday with a broad assortment of customer driven “alligators” waiting at the office.  But by mid-ish afternoon enough were slain that I could head to the dealer . . . and then to the range to “Fire First Shots!” with my brand new Glock 19.

I carry a Glock 17 and have used my carry gun for virtually every course I’ve ever taken.  I like Glocks and feel I shoot them well.  I’ve never shot a Glock 19 so I was more than a little anxious to hit the range to see what I could do with it.

I’d like you to pause right here . . . at this point . . . and consider that the next time you are about to fire first shots . . . you will never have that opportunity again with that particular firearm.  So a little pre-range thought and prep may well provide you with some good information before you plunge ahead and just make holes in paper.  I keep hammering on the idea of “practice with purpose” . . . this is one other instance where you first shots should be deliberate and have purpose.

I set about the trip with 4 sets of criteria.  I wanted to familiarize myself with the G19 and its capabilities, I wanted to get a feel for how it shot, I wanted to evaluate its accuracy at various distances and I wanted to evaluate it during a “failure drill”.  All totaled that process took 55 rounds. (pay no attention to the number or rounds listed on the target . . . I fired 55 rounds, NOT 65.  My final score was 80%)   I expect to shoot well . . . every time I go to the range.  I have a “floor” I will accept in my performance.  If I drop below that, I will pick up my amount of range time to stay above it.  The hit percentage I’ve chosen is 80%.  80% of my rounds must hit within the “box”.  For this evaluation I used – as I typically do – the LETargets SEB target.  You can see it below.

I loaded three magazines with 15 rounds and went through two rounds of aimed fire.  Round 1 was from 15 feet, top to bottom along the left of the silhouette, numbers 1,3 and 5 in that order.  No misses on 1 and 3, dropped 3 on number 5.  Second round was from 21 feet, numbers 2,4 and 6 in that order.  Dropped one on 2 and 5 and 3 on number 5.  Third round was the “Failure Drill” or the “Mozambique” drill.  At a distance of 9 feet fire two rounds high center mass and one to the ocular cavity.  I repeated this 5 times – down zero.  Finally, I stepped back to 15 yards and fired 10 rounds . . . down three. 

Total round count – 55 rounds.  Total hits, 44 . . . for a “score” of 80%. 

Upon completion of a “First Shots” evaluation along these lines you have wrung out your gun for precision from 15 feet, 21 feet and 45 feet and evaluated your ability to get quick combat effective hits at a close distance and a single round requiring more than a little precision mixed in.  For me . . . I believe this is a reasonably solid evaluation course of fire for a new handgun.  While I held on by the skin of my teeth . . . I got my minimum 80% hit rate.  This provides me a starting point, a benchmark for this new addition to my defensive firearms.  I’m looking forward to some more work with the Glock 19.  While there is some thought to moving to it for a carry weapon . . . that’s quite a way down the road, if it happens at all.  But, for a first trip, for “Firing First Shots” . . . I gotta admit I’m pleased.

Been to the range lagtely??  Winter’s comin’ . . . going to be much tougher to drag your butt through the snow and cold to get good work done (it still needs to be done, don’t get me wrong) . . . so pick up a couple hundred rounds this week and get some range time this coming weekend . . . you don’t hone and refine your skills sitting in your recliner . . . just sayin’!